RMG – Fr René Santos: "school is not a neutral subject: it educates towards a certain model of person and society"

(ANS - Rome) - The starting situation is positive, but the service to young people always requires commitment, dedication and continuous updating. In this interview Fr René Santos, representative for the Salesian Schools of America at the Dicastery for Youth Ministry, illustrates the state of the art of Salesian schools on the American continent.

What is the situation of the Salesian School in America?
The Salesian School in America (ESA) is much appreciated: from institutions, but above all from people. And not only for the quality of education, but also for education in values and the social contribution of which it is the bearer. One of its characteristics is that it is a popular school – (i.e. of the people), which through the Preventive System wants to help young people find their place in the world.

Can we say that ESA is implementing the preferential option for the most needy young people?
Yes, we can say so. For example, in Bolivia there is an excellent model, that of the “People's Schools” of Don Bosco, which are the result of an alliance with the government: it is a network of public schools for needy children, young people, directed and animated by the Salesians. And this is just an example; there are other realities in various contexts.

What path has ESA been making since you became the referent of the sector?
I was entrusted with this task in April 2017 and soon after, in May, there was the so-called ESA IV, the fourth ESA congress. My work consisted above all in coordinating the progress of the various geographical, sectoral and Salesian Family realities along the four main axes indicated by that congress: the Salesian response to the educational needs of young people; teacher training; educational quality; and sustainability.

What will be the next steps now?
Our work does not start from scratch. Therefore the first thing is to evaluate what is already being done. In 2018, for the first time, we had regional meetings after ESA IV and many proposals emerged. In 2019 we will proceed with the verification of the progress of the processes and the sharing of good practices.

What does the Synod say about youth at ESA?
The synod asks us to question ourselves on what kind of accompaniment we are giving to young people in schools and to what life project we are bringing them. Because the school is not a neutral subject: in any case it educates towards a certain model of person and society. And we must ensure that we are always consistent with the values of the Gospel and with the social context in which we operate.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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