On the 29th of April 2020, Father Théophile Gnimian Dabilougou, Bursar of the Major Seminary St. Pierre in Kossoghin, Burkina Faso, wrote to ACN sharing the challenges that the 306 (254 boarding and 52 day student) seminarians and staff are facing due to COVID- 19 : “So far, the response of the Great Seminary of Philosophy to the Coronavirus pandemic has been to sensitize staff, students and teachers to the dangers of the virus, to popularize the national directives, the directives given by the Bishops, and to set up some rules of hygiene in the offices, common rooms, to reduce the spiritual activities in the community and to suspend the academic activities (courses, homework, evaluations…). The main measure affecting the Seminary is confinement. The seminarians are invited to stay in their individual rooms, to reduce the interaction with others and use of the common rooms (library, computer room…).
This confinement of more than 250 students in the Seminary premises may present serious health risks if appropriate measures are not taken. The use of common spaces, and common objects remains a risk and can be a source of propagation of coronavirus disease according to medical advice. It is therefore imperative to find strategies to reduce the risks of contamination. The first step is to communicate intensively for a change in behaviour that aims at the definitive adoption of good hygiene practices at both individual and community level. As the seminar is a place of training and human education, these sensitizing and prevention measures come at the right time to complete the lessons usually given to the seminarians.
The Seminary is not equipped to keep up with this fight: hydro-alcoholic gels are strongly recommended, masks, infrared thermometer, few outdoor washing facilities and insufficient waste bins. This is a major challenge to be met because without a minimum of suitable protective and preventive devices and equipment, the barrier measures cannot be observed. The sanitary situation of the seminary is disastrous. The number of toilets and showers is largely insufficient compared to the increasing number of seminarians. Indeed, the seminary has 33 toilets and 33 showers for 254 seminarians, so 1 shower and 1 WC for 8 seminarians. Our objective would be to have 1 WC and 1 shower for 3 seminarians. If the sanitary situation of the Seminary does not improve the risk of contagious diseases is high.
In addition to the health risk it presents for the Seminary’s residents, the confinement puts the students at risk of losing their academic year and undergoing a watered-down training, which will be a source of deficiencies, gaps and frustrations and disabling for the future. Confinement cannot therefore imply a halt to the spiritual and especially academic formation of students. It can be approached in other ways to salvage the academic progress of students. As our Seminary is a philosophy faculty recognized by the national authorities, the seminarians are subject to the official evaluations of the Public Ministry of Education, the Seminary is therefore not free to organize seminars of its own.
We are therefore planning to install an online teaching platform as soon as possible, to equip the seminarians with laptops and to facilitate access to the Internet in the Seminary.
It should be noted that this initiative aims on another level to safeguard the moral and psychological health of these young people confined to rooms for several months in a context of psychosis and generalized panic and uncertainties. The intellectual occupation which we wish to maintain will be worth its weight in gold for the well-being and equilibrium of our young people.
These needs arise in a context where the dioceses of origin of the seminarians cannot suddenly be solicited financially because they are experiencing a considerable decrease in their resources: celebrations are suspended and at the same time quests and other gestures of solidarity of the faithful are rare. We can only turn to the diligent solidarity of the Churches in the world. We would like to thank you for your attention to our Grand Seminary. May the Holy Spirit constantly revive our Faith, Hope and Charity. In communion of prayer.” ACN decided to help with 14.000€ the seminarians of Kossoghin with awareness-raising action to prevent Covid19 and with medical-sanitary equipment. May we pray for them during this challenging time, so God can fill their heart with hope and strengthen their faith.