Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) Program, 2020 Year in Review

African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC)

Sisters celebrate the graduation of HESA participants from ASEC partner university, St. Augustine University College (SAUT), in Mwanza, Tanzania (2019).

A year in review of the Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) program. Read HESA news, graduation announcements, student achievements and program growth as HESA Phase II Year 3 comes to a close.

The Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) program facilitates access to post-secondary education for Catholic sisters in Africa. Since 2013, more than 1,700 sisters have participated in HESA, studying for college diplomas, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees.

The HESA program has served over 1,700 sisters since 2013.

HESA students study at 24 partner higher education institutions in the U.S. and in 10 countries in Africa. Delivered through an innovative model, HESA students participate in cohorts of 5 to 20 sisters at partner higher education institutions and receive technological and academic support to ensure their success as students, scholars and women religious. 

HESA positions Catholic sisters as leaders of vital ministries, congregations and communities who address sustainable development in Africa. In March 2020, ASEC received a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to deliver HESA for a third phase through 2024. The Hilton Foundation supported HESA from the beginning, providing a pilot grant through SLDI in 2012 and program-specific grants since 2013.

HESA Phase III includes support for another 522 Catholic sisters in Africa to receive college diplomas, bachelor's degrees and master’s degrees. The grant will also provide sisters support with tuition, laptops, textbooks and other resources essential for their academic and professional development.

HESA operations in 2020 were shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. ASEC is responding to the fluid situation of COVID-19 in 10 countries and at each of its 24 higher education partners.

In March 2020, many partner higher education institutions in response to COVID-19. To support HESA students studying online, ASEC provided support for internet data procurements. Furthermore, in a time of uncertainty and change for many students, Reflective Learning Workshops were held online. ASEC continues to respond to the fluid situation at each of its partner institutions.

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2019 HESA graduates, St. Augustine University College (SAUT), Tanzania.

2019 HESA graduates, St. Augustine University College (SAUT), Tanzania.

In June 2020, ASEC organized an open forum for partner higher education institutions to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and to understand the needs of students. Necessary support for internet data will continue for sisters studying online in the 2020-2021 academic year.


As of July 1, 2020, approximately 800 sisters were actively enrolled in HESA at partner higher education institutions in 10 countries in Africa. In the 2019-2020 grant year, HESA welcomed 192 new students who participated in orientation workshops in preparation for their studies and formed cohort networks at partner institutions. Recruitment is ongoing for 2020-2021 and it is anticipated that approximately 290 new sisters will enroll by June 2021.


More than 430 sisters have graduated through HESA, with degrees relevant to their ministries.

To date, more than 430 sisters have graduated from HESA with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. During the 2019-2020 grant year, approximately 160 sisters graduated from the following HESA at partner institutions:

  • The Catholic University of Ghana (Ghana)
  • The Catholic University of Eastern Africa (Kenya)
  • ChemChemi Ya Uzima Institute (Kenya)
  • Tangaza University College (Kenya)
  • Sacred Heart School of Nursing (Nigeria)
  • Veritas University (Nigeria)
  • Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences (Tanzania)
  • Mwenge Catholic University (Tanzania)
  • Saint Augustine University (Tanzania)
  • St. Francis Hospital Nsambya Training School (Uganda)
  • Uganda Martyrs University (Uganda)
  • The University of Kisubi (Uganda).
HESA 2020 Veritas University graduates celebrate in Nigeria.

HESA 2020 Veritas University graduates celebrate in Nigeria.

Academic Achievements

75 HESA sisters graduated with honors, with 7 receiving best graduating student awards.

Approximately 75 students reported graduating with honors during this period.  At least 7 graduating sisters received awards for best graduating student, best in department, or student leadership from their institution:

  • Sr. Theresa Uzoamaka Ezewelukwa, OLA: Best in class & best in department, Veritas University, Nigeria
  • Sr. Suzana Gertrude Livinus-Didam, SSL: Best in department, Veritas University, Nigeria
  • Sr. Margaret Okaima Ogbebor, SSMA: Best in department, Veritas University, Nigeria
  • Sr. Felistas Kingori, RSM: Best first year student, Tangaza University College, Kenya
  • Sr. Felicity Amikiya, SHCJ: Overall best graduating student, Catholic University College, Ghana
  • Sr. Kirigha Kizia Felister, ASN: Student leadership award as a class representative, The Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Kenya
  • Sr. Honorine Akateh, FSFB: Student leadership award as a class delegate, ChemChemi Ya Uzima Institute, Kenya


HESA maintains 24 partnerships in 10 countries in Africa and the U.S.

In the 2019-2020 grant year, HESA maintained 24 partnership agreements with higher education partners in the U.S. and Africa. Framework of Reference agreements were renewed between ASEC and Veritas University, Nigeria; Catholic University of Malawi; and Catholic University of Cameroon, Bamenda. Several agreements will be renewed in 2020.

Sisters in Zambia participate in

Sisters in Zambia participate in "virtual" HESA Reflective Learning.

Reflective Learning

Reflective Learning is an annual workshop that brings together HESA sisters studying at colleges/universities in each country for academic and professional development. In the 2019-2020 grant year, more than 760 enrolled HESA students participated in Reflective Learning Workshops in 9 countries; 8 of these workshops were held online due to COVID-19.

Workshop topics vary according to the needs of each country. This year, topics included stress management, research proposal writing, child protection, addressing COVID-19 and safeguarding against abuse and violence. Students praised the use of technology for Reflective Learning Workshops, as well as the opportunity to hone and learn new computer skills.

You can learn more about the HESA program at

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This article is addressing the following UN Sustainable Development Goal(s):

Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Rosemary Shaver, EdD

Rosemary Shaver, EdD
Senior Program Manager, Programs  

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