The Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) program facilitates access to post-secondary education for Catholic sisters in Africa. Since 2013, over 1,600 sisters* have participated in HESA, studying for college diplomas, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees.
ASEC partners with 24 higher education institutions* in the U.S. and operates in 10 African countries. Delivered through an innovative model, HESA students participate in cohorts of 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. HESA is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The Foundation supported HESA from the beginning, providing a pilot grant through SLDI in 2012 and program-specific grants since 2013. The third phase of HESA (July 1, 2020-June 30, 2024) will support at least 522 sisters for undergraduate and master's degrees.
- 1,600+ Served: Since 2013, over 1,600 sisters (≈300 in 2020-21)* have participated in the HESA program.
- 600+ Graduates: Over 600 sisters (≈150 in 2020-21)* have graduated through HESA with degrees relevant to their ministries.
- 24 Partnerships: ASEC partners with 24 higher education institutions* in the U.S. and 10 African countries of operation.
- 100 Honors Students: Approximately 100 HESA students* reported graduating with honors in the 2020-21 academic year.
2020-21 brought innovation and challenges as many sister students transitioned to online or hybrid models of study. ASEC responded to the emergent needs of its sister students and university partners in Africa. As students moved to online studies, ASEC provided funds for internet data and other resources to ensure students’ success. Additionally, meetings with university partners in the U.S. and Africa were held at various points to address COVID-19 challenges and ensure students were continuously supported.
A collaborative effort among ASEC, university partners, national conferences of religious congregations and students made it possible for HESA to move forward in the face of unprecedented challenges.
As of July 1, 2021, approximately 950 sisters* were actively enrolled in HESA at partner higher education institutions in 10 countries in Africa. In the 2020-21 grant year, HESA welcomed approximately 300 new students* who formed cohorts and participated in orientation workshops in preparation for their studies.
Recruitment is ongoing and it's anticipated that approximately 175 more sisters will enroll in HESA by June 30, 2022.
To date, more than 600 sisters* have graduated from HESA with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. During the 2020-21 grant year, approximately 150 sisters* graduated from the following HESA at partner institutions:
- Catholic University of Cameroon, Bamenda (Cameroon)
- The Catholic University of Ghana (Ghana)
- Holy Family Nursing and Midwifery Training College (Ghana)
- The Catholic University of Eastern Africa (Kenya)
- ChemChemi Ya Uzima Institute (Kenya)
- Tangaza University College (Kenya)
- Catholic University of Malawi (Malawi)
- 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)
- The University of Kisubi (Uganda)
- Uganda Martyrs University (Uganda)
In the 2020-21 grant year, approximately 100 students* reported graduating with honors. At least 9 sisters* received awards for best graduating student, best in department, or student leadership from their institution:
- Sr. Betty Namwazi, DM, Uganda - Marywood University & University of Kisubi, Bachelor of Education - University of Kisubi Meritorious Award for the Best Undergraduate Student in the Faculty of Education
- Sr. Mary Kulume, MSMMC, Uganda - University of Kisubi, Bachelor of Science in Information Technology - University of Kisubi Meritorious Award for the Best Undergraduate Student in the Faculty of Business and Information and Community Technology
- Sr. Irene Atsiech Kwena, FES, Kenya - The Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Bachelor of Commerce - Valedictorian, Class of 2020
- Sr. Gloria Jacinta Ochu Adoga, SSND, Nigeria - Rosemont College & Veritas University, Bachelor of Business Administration - Head of Department Award for the Best Graduating Student in Business Administration
- Sr. Bridget Eze, CM, Nigeria - Rosemont College & Veritas University, Bachelor of Business Administration - Head of Department Award for the Best Graduating Student in Public Administration
- Sr. Juliana Uzoma Okafor, SHCJ, Nigeria - Rosemont College & Veritas University, Bachelor of Business Administration - Head of Department Award for the Best Graduating Student in Art and Social Science Education
- Sr. Mildred Kaneng Pwajok, OLF, Nigeria - Veritas University, Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies - Head of Department Award for the Best Graduating Student in Religious Studies
- Sr. Gifty Anastasia Blewu, SMMC, Ghana - Catholic University College of Ghana, Bachelor of Education - Overall Best Student and Best Female Student in the Faculty of Education
- Sr. Virginia Obiamaka Okeke, MSHR, Cameroon - Catholic University of Cameroon, Bamenda, Masters in Health Economics - Overall Best Student in the Faculty of Health Economics
In the 2020-21 grant year, HESA maintained 24 partnership agreements* with higher education partners in the U.S. and Africa. Since July 1, 2020, five (5) HESA partnership agreements* have been renewed.
Framework of Reference agreements were renewed between:
- ASEC & Zambia Catholic University (Zambia)
- ASEC & National University of Lesotho (Lesotho)
- ASEC & Holy Family Nursing and Midwifery Training College (Ghana)
- ASEC & Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences (Tanzania)
- ASEC & Mwenge Catholic University, Moshi (Tanzania)
- ASEC & St. Francis Hospital Nsambya Training School (Uganda)
- Uganda Martyrs University (Uganda)
MOU agreements were renewed between:
- ASEC, Chestnut Hill College (US) and Catholic University College of Ghana (Ghana)
- ASEC, Chestnut Hill College (US) and Veritas University (Nigeria)
The HESA Alumnae Network is continuing to grow as more students graduate. In 2021, more than 220 HESA alumnae* participated in ASEC Alumnae Workshops held in 10 countries in Africa. All ASEC alumnae are invited to the workshops and over 50 sisters* in attendance were alumnae of both the HESA and SLDI programs.
Alumnae Workshops were held both virtually and in-person and included sessions addressing child protection, human trafficking, safeguarding and time management.
Reflective Learning is an annual academic and professional development workshop that brings together HESA sisters studying at colleges and universities in each country. In the 2020-21 grant year, more than 800 enrolled HESA students* participated in Reflective Learning Workshops in 10 countries; 7 of these workshops* were held online due to COVID-19.
Workshop topics emerge from student recommendations and vary according to student and social needs in each country. This year, topics included self-awareness, research methodology, data analysis, emotional intelligence, stress management, gender based violence, child protection and human trafficking.
Students welcomed the opportunity to participate in online Reflective Learning Workshops for a second year. Topics and group discussions highlighted the challenges of COVID-19 in the sisters’ communities, in their personal lives and as students, who in most cases transitioned to online learning for all or portions of 2020. Discussions and reports from the workshops on challenges, including conducting research remotely, provided ASEC with valuable insight into student needs going forward.