by Robert Vujs
The UN constantly urges us to care for children in a special way until they reach the age of six. Maryknoll Father Robert Vujs of Hartford, Connecticut, and his Kenyan staff are concretely applying this wisdom by training nursery school teachers. The course is called the Child Developers Program. During the past 25 years, 1200 nursery school teachers have been professionally trained to use the Montessori method of child development. This dedicated group guides 16,000 Kenyan children in city classrooms, under lonely trees in deserts, in grass huts, and in mud and wattle buildings jammed in local slums.
At Father Robert's own city parish, 400 children joyfully gather each day to be developed. Urban working parents in the parish value this caring. As one street vendor said: "I do not mind selling potatoes on this corner, because my child is being developed properly at Father Robert's school for only one dollar a day including meals."
Kenyans' hunger for education and the sad fact that Nairobi City Council is not constructing schools has forced Father Robert to fill this void. He has constructed one grammar school and is now starting a second for another 1000 children. Fortunately, he has the Sisters of Apostolic Carmel from Bangolore, India, in the schools as teachers/managers to guide 48 staff members.
Father Robert's parish is called Doonholm Catholic Church. It is located 8 miles east of Nairobi city center paralleling Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Father is the only Maryknoller among 40,000 residents 30% of whom are Catholic. His multipurpose church hums with activity starting with the nursery school at 7:30 AM until 4:30 PM when the school children arrive for catechism classes. By 6:00 PM, the choir has arrived along with the karate students for practice. After Mass at 7:30 PM, First Aid classes attract volunteers. Father never knows when the youth will meet to plan activities. They just pop in, because the door is open to them.
Father Robert and his parish committees are dreaming of opening three more sub-stations, because the 1,200 person capacity, multi-purpose, church building cannot serve the growing needs of all the Catholics who are moving into the area.