Designing a higher education programme can be easy when it is only a dream. Putting together all the parts requires selfless commitment among the stakeholders, high-level engagement, building bridges and God’s guidance.
Four years since its inception, the Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) programme, an initiative of African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC), has produced admirable results. 95 sisters have enrolled at CUEA, with nearly 20 completing their degrees and graduating with first and second honors. Among the 95 sisters, 69 are participating through a partnership with Marywood University in the United States. The sisters, all studying for a Bachelor of Education degree, completed year one of their studies online at Marywood University and transferred to CUEA to complete their degrees.
ASEC’s partnership with CUEA exemplifies important values and commitment to the mission of both organizations. ASEC partners with four colleges and universities in Kenya – CUEA, Tangaza University College, Chemchemi ya Uzima Institute, and Regina Pacis University College. Sisters study in a variety of fields related to their ministerial needs following the charisms of their congregations.
HESA is one component of ASEC’s work for Catholic Sisters in Africa. Founded by presidents of four colleges and universities and four presidents of the congregations that founded these universities, ASEC runs four programmes. The Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) enhances sisters’ ability to confront emerging issues in their countries through technological, administrative, and financial training. Scholarship Programme provides two-year scholarships for sisters to complete high school or a college diploma, while Service Learning Programme provides opportunities for US college students and sisters to travel to countries served by ASEC for 2-week spirituality-based immersion. The Research Programme shares best practices in research and evaluation.
With funding from Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, ASEC’s HESA programme continues to grow. Beyond CUEA, HESA is supporting sisters to study at 23 colleges and universities in Africa and online in the USA, providing access to quality, affordable higher education leading to Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees or college diploma in relevant academic fields. Sisters are studying in a variety of academic disciplines – mainly education, leadership and resource management, business administration/ economics, social work/ human development, theology, and nursing/ medical sciences.
ASEC fits into the international development narrative, furthering progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Africa. ASEC is addressing three core goals articulated in the Sustainable Development Goal agenda. These are Goal 4, Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; Goal 5, Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and Goal 17, Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. ASEC is addressing these goals by forming partnerships for education access among Catholic Sisters who return to their religious and local communities as well educated leaders. Furthermore, ASEC focuses on women. Although sisters have been at the forefront in providing education for all, quite a few lack higher education credentials. With higher education, they are able to create programmes in communities and impact more children and youth in our society.
ASEC is grateful to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Catholic Sisters Initiative, for perpetuating Conrad’s legacy to support Catholic Sisters. We commend those involved in day-to-day running of the programme: Ms. Rosemary Shaver, Assistant Director of HESA Project; Dr. Ann Rita Njageh, Deputy Director Academic Linkages at CUEA; Sr. Lina Wanjiku, SE, ASEC Regional Director. To illustrate the importance of education, ASEC hired one of our own, Sr. Lydia Wanjiku, NSA (who graduated from CUEA in October 2016) and is now serving as ASEC Programs Coordinator in Kenya.
Taken from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) 34th Graduation – October 2016 booklet