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COVID-19 Impact in Africa - ASEC Stakeholder Engagement Report

African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC)

ASEC Program Director Sr. Juliana Zulu, RGS, shows the love and care of a sister to a little girl in Zambia.

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This impact study aims to understand ASEC stakeholders’ experiences and coping mechanisms during the COVID-19 pandemic so we can provide proactive response to their needs.

As ASEC prioritizes strong relationships with partner institutions, understanding the impact of devastating events such as the COVID-19 pandemic on its stakeholders is central to providing effective interventions that will ensure the continuation of our programs long-term.

For these reasons, in May, 2020, ASEC initiated an internal study entitled, Understanding Stakeholders’ Coping Mechanisms During the COVID-19 PandemicThe purpose of this study was to seek an organizational understanding of African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) stakeholders’ experiences and coping mechanisms during the phenomenon of the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The study utilized a mixed methods, cross-sectional survey design. The target population from all of ASEC’s stakeholders was approximately 3,800, from whom the study obtained a 40% response rate (N = 1,529).

Findings indicated

  • no relationship existed between personality type with work/ministry, emotional and coping skill
  • a strong relationship was found between work/ministry, emotional and coping skills.

This suggests that the pandemic has negatively impacted ASEC’s stakeholders’ ministries and practice settings, leading to significant influence on personal experiences of loneliness, fear, anxiety and lower performance. ASEC will utilize the results of this study to implement interventions that are data-driven and in planning for future organizational operations.

The ASEC Research Initiative Unit presented study results to ASEC Staff on May 19, 2020 and Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) partner representatives from all 11 countries on June 5, 2020. These sessions provided a forum in which ASEC conveyed its solidarity with all stakeholders and engaged in discussion on how best to support its partners during the pandemic. A full report of study results can be found here.  

The full report can be downloaded here: ASEC COVID-19 Impact Report Stakeholder Engagement Survey (PDF) 

The results presentation can be viewed here: COVID-19 Stakeholder Engagement Survey Presentation (PDF)

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Methodology

  • Quantitative Focus (1 Qualitative Question)
  • Large Participant Pool (≅3,800)
  • Response Rate 40% (N=1,529)
  • ASEC US & Africa Staff
  • HESA Partner Representatives
  • SLDI Partner Representatives
  • National Conference Representatives
  • SLDI, HESA, Scholarship, Service Learning, & Visiting Scholar Participants
  • Delivered via Email & WhatsApp- Survey Monkey

Survey Design

  • Data Permission Statement
  • Confidentiality/Informed consent
  • 24 Total Questions
    • 8 Demographic
    • 15 Assessing COVID-19 Impact
    • 1 Short Answer

Participants

  • A total of 1,529 participants submitted responses to the survey
  • 97% (n=1416) of respondents identified as religious and 3% (n=44) identified as laity.
  • 34 declined to complete due to data permission concerns
  • Largest participation came from current residents of Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana, each country recording more than 100 participants. The country with the least participation was South Sudan, recording only two participants. 31 participants reported their current country of residence as “Other” due to changes in religious assignments and job placement.
  • The majority of respondents indicated they were ASEC Program Participants (n=1,418).
  • Amongst respondents who indicated they were ASEC program participants 49% selected HESA and 49% selected SLDI (n=1,344).
  • The largest number of respondents indicated that they were currently students (n=1,405).

Results

In crisis management, there is no significant relationship between personality type (extrovert/introvert) and disposition to the impact on stakeholders’ ministries/work, emotional experiences and coping skills. 

There was no relationship between emotional impact and whether one was a religious or lay.

The most common greatest source of support for participants was personal prayer (n=1,222).

Support

Participants were asked, "In your opinion, how can ASEC best support you and your institution/ organization during the COVID-19 pandemic?"

Material Support

Most commonly, survey respondents indicated that the best way ASEC could support them during the COVID-19 pandemic was through provision of material items (n= 10).

Partner Institution Representatives, National Conference Representatives, HESA Liaisons and ASEC Program Participants cited material support as their top priority:

  • Nearly half of all material requests (n=225) were related to medical supplies (e.g. personal protective equipment, sanitizer, soap, thermometers, ventilators)
  • Information and communications technology (ICT) was also cited frequently (n=146), with data bundles, internet access and laptops being the highest priority.
  • A significant portion of respondents (n=56) referenced the need for food supplies and the dwindling sustenance available in their various communities.

"Especially where I live, lot of people can not provide food, people are suffering, and dying. Hungry are killing people, because they can not provide for their daily basic food, due to lock down." -Cameroon, HESA Participant

"Getting data for knowing what is happening around you is a problem. We were given some course works to do during this pandemic but because of lack of data, we are unable to do...affording data is still not easy because of the nature of the communities we are coming from." -Uganda, HESA Participant

Additional Skills Training

A large proportion of qualitative respondents (n=374) indicated that the best way ASEC could support them was through the provision of additional skills training.

  • The most common requested training was in the area of mental health (n = 124) including coping skills and counseling methods, tailored to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • This was closely followed by general COVID-19 training (n=117), as many respondents conveyed a desire to more fully understand how to prevent transmission of the virus, identify its symptoms and direct those infected to proper treatment resources.
  • In addition, a small portion of respondents (n = 33) stated that they required crisis management training (e.g. disaster relief skills, risk assessment) in order to better serve their communities.  

"I think if we can be trained in order to cope with this new reality, so as to help those in danger, it can be helpful." -Cameroon, SLDI Participant

"Provide us with authentic information about the virus since we have lots of information on the media, and also some logistics in case we have cases."-Ghana, HESA Participant

Financial Support

A fairly sizable proportion of stakeholders (n=249) requested ASEC’s financial support at the congregation, ministry, and/or individual level. 

Ideas in which ASEC could support its stakeholders financially included options to apply for small grants directly through ASEC and/or assisting in connecting stakeholders to other potential donors.

"I request ASEC to support me financially. Because for these two month all our workers haven't got their salaries due to the temporary close of the schools because of COVID-19 pandemic. As headteacher am worried because of their families and I have no way to assist them." -Tanzania, SLDI Participant

Prayer & Spiritual Support

Study participants were also asked to identify their greatest sources of support during the COVID-19 pandemic (n=1,222).

The largest group of respondents identified spirituality as a coping mechanism (i.e. personal prayer, spiritual support), with 84% selecting personal prayer and 64% selecting spiritual support as their greatest comforts.

“ASEC can support me by joining with me in the networking prayers for God's intervention to heal and to save his people.” -Nigeria, SLDI & HESA Participant

This was followed by social coping mechanisms (i.e. community/family, social media, co-workers, organizational communication), with 69% selecting community/family and 47% selecting social media as sources of comfort.

Lastly, a small portion of respondents (8%) reported that access to counseling services was a source of support during the pandemic. 

Increase Communication

  • Facilitate Sharing (Online Forums)
  • Continuous Updates (Newsletter, Emails)
  • Social Media (COVID-19 Info, Updates)

"Provide the needed logistics for my work as an Instructor on the SLDI program. Information on developments that will improve the quality of work."-SLDI Facilitator

"By keeping strongly in touch with all country coordinators who will in turn keep links with all religious in their countries." -Visiting Scholar

Limitations of the Study

  • Pandemics whether national/ regional/ global crisis do not always warn ahead of time, no known research tool was readily available to match the needs of this study
  • Results are limited to this organizational study.
  • Self-reported scores are mostly subjective and could change tomorrow
  • Participants were disproportional at only 3% for the lay

Conclusions

The purpose of this study was to seek an organizational understanding of ASEC stakeholders’ experiences and coping mechanisms during the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide a proactive response to this unprecedented phenomenon at the organizational level.

This study is part of many steps ASEC has proactively made to stay connected with its stakeholders. Messages were also distributed to show solidarity with the suffering world from ASEC’s United States headquarters in Scranton, Pennsylvania and across the ten countries in Africa south of the Sahara.

To ease the negative impact of COVID-19, ASEC’s development office has played a proactive role in facilitating applications for small grants from well-wishers to select ministries of women religious in Africa.

The findings of this study suggest that the pandemic has had a significant impact on all stakeholders particularly in their work and ministries. In addition, there are identified areas of need amongst its constituencies, particularly in material support, which ASEC may be able to fulfill through its partnerships, networking abilities and Africa staff.

Finally, although work/ministries had major negative impact, ASEC enjoys a strong team of stakeholders, high coping skills and emotional balance.

Recommendations for Future Research

It is recommended that this study be replicated within selected sisters’ ministries, such as healthcare (i.e. nurses, aides, pharmacists) and education (i.e. teachers), to better understand the specific impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in these sectors.

More in-depth case studies could be conducted in these specific ministries to develop a fuller picture of the disease’s influence.

A case study could also be conducted regarding the impact of the pandemic at the congregational level, utilizing ASEC’s most served congregations as references.

It is also suggested that the same variables be applied to better determine the differences in experiences between women and men religious and a larger group of laity. Further, a post COVID-19 study amongst ASEC stakeholders would also be helpful in determining the full impact of the situation and the effects of the lockdown in hindsight. This would allow for improved preparation for possible similar situations in the future. 


The full report can be downloaded here: ASEC COVID-19 Impact Report Stakeholder Engagement Survey (PDF) 

The results presentation can be viewed here: COVID-19 Stakeholder Engagement Survey Presentation (PDF)


The purpose of this study was to seek an organizational understanding of stakeholders’ experiences and coping mechanisms during the phenomenon of the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) operates in ten countries of Africa south of the Sahara, through partnerships with 24 institutions of higher education, 39 consultancy groups and 10 national associations/conferences of women religious. 

This research study utilized a mixed methods, cross-sectional survey design. The target population from all of ASEC’s stakeholders was approximately 3,800, from whom the study obtained a 40% response rate (n=1,529).

Pearson’s r reveals no relationship between personality type with work/ministry, emotional and coping skills, but a strong relationship was found between work/ministry, emotional and coping skills p <.01. The pandemic has negatively impacted the stakeholders’ ministries and practice settings, leading to significant influence on personal experiences of loneliness, fear, anxiety and lower performance.

Recommendations for practice have been made to help the organization implement interventions to provide data-driven planning for future organizational operations.

This research was directed by ASEC’s Executive Director and the Research Initiative team in conjunction with USA Staff and Country Directors & Coordinators in ASEC’s ten countries.

  • Sr. Draru Mary Cecilia, LSMIG, Ph.D., Executive Director, ASEC
  • Tara Lopatofsky, Ph.D., CCLS, Program Manager, Monitoring & Evaluation (Research, HESA & Scholarships)
  • Sr. Kevin Karimi, LSOSF, Ph.D., Researcher, Program Evaluation
  • Please download the full report for a complete list of acknowledgements.

About ASEC

ASEC operates in ten countries of Africa south of the Sahara, through partnerships with 24 institutions of higher education, 39 consultancy groups and 10 national associations/conferences of women religious. Collaboration is a core value of ASEC and is vital to the organization’s success in achieving its mission. ASEC operates four core programs:

  1. Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA)
  2. Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI)
  3. Two-Year Scholarship program
  4. Service Learning program.

In addition, ASEC’s Institutional Capacity Building (ICB) program is being piloted under SLDI and the Visiting Scholar Fellowship is run in partnership with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University under ASEC’s Research Initiative.

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

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Amy Fedele

Amy Fedele
Author
Media & Communications Manager  

Tara Lopatofsky, Ph.D., CCLS

Tara Lopatofsky, Ph.D., CCLS
Author
Program Manager, Monitoring & Evaluation (Research, HESA & Scholarships)  

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