There are a few legendary stories that make their way around the ASEC offices. In one, an ASEC Sister in Africa is unable to find an internet connection except for in a nearby tree. (How she figured that out has yet to be offered up to me.) Because she is so dedicated to her education, she went to that tree every time she needed to get a connection to complete her work. While we do all we can to make education more accessible, this shows that there are many challenges to overcome all the same.
This is just one story, but there are many – and not all of them are about finding Wi-Fi. Some sisters are working to leverage community disparities to give children a chance at an education. Some sisters have obtained education in order to research how they can make educational systems better in Africa. Some are implementing their findings in their congregations and local schools.
It has been largely known that Africa’s education and training programs are in a place of need due to low-quality teaching and inequalities among the population. This issue has been given serious attention, but even with an increase of children who have access to basic education, a large number still do not receive it. The COVID-19 pandemic did not help matters as research shows school closures amplified the existing inequalities, with those already at high risk being impacted the most.
Sr. Janet Christine Kiden, MSBVM, made ASEC and her community proud last year when she became the first ASEC Sister to get her Ph.D. She is using her education to directly improve education in her community. Her research focused on how to provide quality education and training for teachers.
While undergoing research she found issues within the education system such as staffing shortages, obsolete curriculum, and resources in need of updating. She was able to secure Wi-Fi and update libraries to enhance both the quality of teaching and learning. Because of the hard work she put into her education and research she has been able to transform the quality of education being received by those in her community.
In Uganda, two ASEC Sisters have used their education to advance Boni Consilii school, providing previously unimagined opportunities to young girls in Uganda. In Uganda, the graduation rate for females in less than 25% due to social issues like child marriage and child-rearing responsibilities.
The Boni Consilii school has been advanced through the help of two African nuns – Sr. Mary Lilian Baitwakakye is a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC), a religious congregation based in Mbarara, Uganda, and an alumna of the Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) and Sr. Lucia Nyamwija, OLGC, is a current student in SLDI’s Higher Education for Sisters in Africa. Sr. Lucia is currently headmistress of the school.
They have both been able to use their unique skills to strengthen education and the school. Sr. Lillian has learned skills to be a successful grant writer, securing grants to build classrooms, dormitories, latrines, showers, water tanks, an assembly hall, a dining hall, administration offices and a school laboratory at the school. She also secured funds to begin a dairy farm near the school, which helps support the school and congregation.
Sr. Lucia, the current headmistress, takes extra time to tutor at-risk girls and keep them in school, helping those who need aid with tuition. She’s also improved the school’s water access by acquiring funding for a water tank and a rainwater collection system.
Traveling to another part of Uganda, you’ll find Sr. Betty Namatovu, IMHR. As head teacher, Sr. Betty is using her HESA program education to provide a stable yet constantly improving learning environment for kids in Uganda. She has been able to address some of the biggest challenges facing the school and make remarkable improvements, including installing electricity, renovating facilities, repairing an underground water tank, and installing a tap water system. Because of her effort, students now have access to quality education in a stable environment.
It takes hard work, education and time, but ASEC Sisters have proven they are dedicated to making improvements in education throughout Africa.