Loyola does not want its buds to grow with pumpkin heads and puny hearts….
It wants them to have a big heart and that heart be filled with love.
Jesuit education believes in making its students as women and men for others. It means that those who enter through its portals will have to come out with a heart that melts at the cry of the people. That they do not stop with learning the subjects and that they do not make peripheral comments on the order of the world, Jesuit education insists on having hands-on learning in the world of the poor. Jesuit education takes the students into the depth of learning not only from the books but also from the faces of the people. On the one hand, it affirms the learning within the classrooms and on the other hand, it allows the learning to happen outside the premises, on the streets, in the slums, in the villages, among the poor and with the marginalised. Loyola therefore, takes the students to the slums in Chennai.
Micro-learning in the slums, Loyola significantly believes, leads the students to the macro-commitment to nation-building. Little services in the slums will have bountiful snowball effect in the lives of the students. A second year UG student of Loyola spends luxurious 120 hours of service among the people in the slums. It may be too little to have in the development of the history of humanity but it is too large for a student to give up, selflessly. Loyola strongly believes that these 120 hours of selfless service would make a student surrender his/her ego, surrender it for the betterment of humanity. As a student in Loyola, you learn to question the system after being with the people in the slums. That question is the first step towards realising justice.
PG students are taken to the villages, not for a gala time but for learning lessons from the rural people and rustic surroundings. They are life lessons, in fact. The wrinkles on the face of a rural woman, the guileless smile of rural child and the ruptured feet of the rural men, and all that they observe in the villages teach them lessons that make indelible imprints in the lives of the students. Some of the students happily undergo this beautiful experience and we are aware, some of them feel always coerced to undergo. All the more, Loyola feels that it is needed and therefore it is mandatory.
They are our people, our origin, and our nation. We are happy here and there is someone slogging through day and night to ensure our happiness. We are in higher education and there is someone paying for the subsidy. ‘That someone' is giving and it pinches ‘that someone'. As adults, we need to be aware of this reality. And therefore, service learning in Loyola is not an attachment but it is part and parcel of learning.
Come into it with open heart and open hands. Be ready to learn lessons that take you to life. Lessons of Love and of Justice!
Henry Jerome SJ