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The Impact on Education in Africa - ASEC Special Evaluation Report

African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC)

SLDI participants of Administration Track visit school children in Fukayosi Villiage in Tanzania.

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How alumnae of ASEC's SLDI and HESA programs are impacting ministries in primary and secondary education in Africa.

The central goal of this special evaluation report of the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) is to explore how alumnae of the Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) and the Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) programs are impacting ministries in primary and secondary education in Africa.

Annual evaluation reports of each program show that many alumnae work in primary and secondary education as teachers and headmistresses. Reports also show evidence that alumnae in education ministries:

  • improve the internal systems of schools
  • have taken on various leadership positions and
  • have mobilized resources to improve the quality of education for children in ASEC’s 10 countries of operation.

This special report, focused on qualitative data, takes a deeper look at how the SLDI and HESA programs are enabling sisters to make positive impacts in their ministries and improve education for all.

Research Question

The research question for this special evaluation report stemmed directly from each program's evaluation objectives. The central research questions to be answered by this report is:

What impact do alumnae of the SLDI and/or HESA programs have on their education ministries in Africa?

Jump to survey results

Methodology

ASEC staff, with the assistance of key stakeholders, developed specific indicators of measurement for success in the field of education. The developed objective measures of impact were then used to create an applied Education Ministries Survey and were also included in the annual 2020 ASEC Alumnae Survey.

A PDF version of the full report is available here: Quality Education: ASEC's Impact (April, 2020)

This was the first instance in which the Education Ministries Survey was distributed to alumnae. Sisters who indicated serving in ministries related to primary and secondary education were asked questions surrounding the developed indicators, results of which were collected via Survey Monkey. This produced qualitative data that was then analyzed for themes using NVivo 11 software, employing the constant comparative method for analysis.

Survey Participants

Purposive convenience sampling was used to identify which program participants would be surveyed. Only SLDI/HESA alumnae who met specific criteria were selected to complete the survey. Required criteria included

  • graduation from the SLDI and/or HESA program
  • verification of service in an education ministry by ASEC staff
  • agreement to complete the survey
  • Alumnae must also have indicated that they were currently serving in an education ministry at the primary or secondary school level.

Efforts were made to include participants from each of ASEC’s 10 countries of operation.

  • Education Ministry Surveys were sent to 109 ASEC alumnae.
  • In total 33 sisters completed the survey (17 SLDI, 7 HESA, and 9 both).
  • One sister, an SLDI alumna, agreed to be interviewed via Zoom.
  • 511 sisters (401 SLDI, 157 HESA, and 47 both) completed the newly added education ministry section of the 2020 ASEC Alumnae Survey.

The Importance of Education

Inclusive and quality education is the key to achieving all of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. Increased education allows people to break out of the cycle of poverty and empowers them to lead sustainable and healthy lives.

The following statistics indicate a need to continue to provide services in the education sector, in low and middle income countries, a role many women religious find themselves fulfilling.

  • 18% (262 million) of youths, aged 6-17 years, remain out of school.
  • It is anticipated that this number will only decrease to 14% (225 million) by 2030.
  • Progress towards reducing the number of children out of school in low and middle income countries has halted since 2010.
  • Many schools lack adequate infrastructure, qualified teachers and the basic resources necessary to provide quality education. This is attributable to the lack of public aid provided to the education sector by governments since that time. 

The education sector in sub-Saharan Africa is particularly in need of additional support and services.

  • Since 2000, the proportion of trained teachers in sub-Saharan Africa has significantly decreased.
  • This is due to schools hiring teachers without qualifications to cover teacher shortages at a lower cost.
  • This highlights the importance of providing access to training and educational credentials throughout the region, through programs such as SLDI and HESA.

Given the low quality of public education in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, parents are often reluctant to make sacrifices to send their girl children to school.

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Education Indicators of Impact

The survey indicators focused on five thematic areas of impact:

  1. Student Performance
    1. Higher Completion Rates
    2. Improvements in Test Scores
    3. Improved Integrated, or Holistic, Learning
    4. Improvement in Implementation of the Curriculum
  2. Access to Education
    1. Increased Enrollment
    2. Increased Access to Education
  3. Learning Environment
    1. Improvements to School Facilities
    2. Improved School Safety
    3. Increased Resources for School
  4. School Systems/Operations
    1. Improved Systems within Schools
    2. High Retention Rate of Teachers
    3. Improved Levels of Communication
    4. Staff Training
    5. Improved Evaluation
    6. Long-Term Planning
  5. Alumnae Performance
    1. Additional Responsibilities
    2. Professional Development Trainings
    3. Innovations
    4. High levels of Job Satisfaction
    5. Personal and/or Professional Actualization

Student Performance

School Completion Rates

"My school is now the school of choice, transfers, drop outs have decreased." -HESA Alum #2

  • 28 sisters indicated that they have contributed to increasing their students' school completion rates.
  • The majority stated that this was accomplished through positive student interactions such as relationship building with students and improving guidance and counseling resources at the school.
  • Sisters also attributed improved completion rates to:
    • maintaining good standards (i.e. no repeat policies, individualized education plans, reduced class size)
    • improving collaboration (i.e. teamwork, parental involvement, holding stakeholder meetings)
    • providing better leadership (i.e. supervision, better record keeping)
    • financial interventions
    • assisting in building the capacity of other teachers

Holistic Learning

  • 29 sisters reported that they have improved the level of integrated of holistic learning in their school.
  • The types of activities the sisters have implemented in order of frequency were:
    • life skills lessons
    • religious activities
    • games and sports
    • community engagement
    • environmental activities
    • guidance counseling
    • choir

Student Test Scores

"[Student test scores increased by] empowering the average and poor performing students to attain their potential in education." -SLDI/HESA Alum #11

  • 32 sisters reported that since completing an ASEC program they have helped to improve their students' test scores. 
  • Sisters attributed the increases to:
    • encouraging/motivating students
    • utilizing effective teaching practices
    • increasing monitoring and evaluation
    • providing interventions for low learners
    • employing qualified teachers
    • teamwork
  • In the 2020 ASEC Alumnae Survey 26% (n=511) of ASEC alumnae reported that they helped improved student test scores after completion of either the SLDI or HESA programs.

Curriculum

  • 26 sisters stated that they have improved the curriculum at their school.
  • Sisters reported improved curriculum was due to:
    • organizing teacher workshops or training (most common answer)
    • increased supervision
    • attending workshops themselves
    • having necessary learning materials available

Access to Education

Student Enrollment

  • 26 sisters reported on the Education Ministries Survey that since completing an ASEC program they have helped increase enrollment at their school.
  • Ways in which the sisters were able to achieve this was through:
    • increased advertising (i.e. radio announcements, posters, appeals to the community)
    • improving the school's academic performance and thus bringing in more students
    • word of mouth (i.e. student alumnae advocating for new student enrollment)
    • improving the school facilities (i.e. building infrastructure, purchasing equipment).
  • In addition, in the 27% of alumnae serving in education ministries reported assisting in increasing enrollment in their schools after completing the SLDI and/or HESA programs.

Girl-Child Enrollment

Focusing specifically on girl-child enrollment,

  • 22 sisters indicated that they helped their school in making increases.
  • This was accomplished through three main endeavors:
    • advocacy and education about the importance of girl-child education
    • implementing a girl-child friendly learning environment
    • offering scholarships or sponsorship to girl children

Learn more about sisters advancing the girl child in Africa.

Access to Education in Rural Areas

"It is worth noting that we are really in a remote and rural area where education is not yet a priority and evangelization as a whole is still at the primary level. The bore hole we intend to do for the school will equally serve the local communities." -SLDI Alum #27

  • 17 sisters indicated that they have assisted in increasing access to education in remote/rural areas
  • This was achieved through activities such as
    • building a school
    • increasing its catchment area in remote/under-served areas.
    • offering scholarships or sponsorship to children from remote areas
    • promoting the school/advertising
    • directly serving in remote areas

"Presently, in my new mission area, we are working hard to extend the catchment area by going into Hinterland and farm settlement area to talk about the need and benefit of girl-child education." -SLDI Alum #33

Learning Environment

Mobilizing Resources & Improving School Facilities

  • 23 sisters indicated that they have mobilized resources to help improve school facilities.
  • Mostly this was accomplished through grant writing efforts and engaging parents in fundraising.
  • In fewer cases, sisters sought funds from the local community, their congregation or through income generating activities.
  • 17 sisters stated specific improvements made to the school, which include construction of:
    • toilets (4)
    • laboratories (4)
    • classroom blocks (4)
    • administrative offices (4)
    • dormitories (2)
    • boreholes (2)
    • water pump (1)
  • Funds were also used to improve agricultural projects, obtain academic materials, and pay teacher salaries, among other improvements.
  • In the 2020 Alumnae Survey, 17.2% (n=511) of all alumnae reported making improvements to school facilities.

Alumnae Resource Mobilization Spotlight:
Sr. Esther Waithera, LSOSF, an SLDI alumna, collaboratively implemented an innovative water filtration project in Kenya which serves a congregation-run school as well as the greater community.

Safety & Security

  • 13 sisters implemented safety policies in schools, including policies on substance abuse, discipline, and bullying.
  • 12 sisters reported making improvements to the school facilities in order to improve security which was accomplished through
    • building fences
    • installing electricity or security lights
    • obtaining safety equipment
  • Other sisters report implementing the following safety measures:
    • monitoring school visitors (5)
    • increasing parental involvement (4)
    • hiring security guards (4) 
    • improved communication (2)

Improved School Facilities Linked to Increases in Enrollment

"There has been increased enrollment at my school because when we were funded to build a 1 x 3 Science Laboratory, the old 1 x 2 Laboratory was turned into a classroom block thereby increased the junior classes from 2 stream to 3 streams." -SLDI/HESA Alum #11

"Increasing of the resources for the school was made possible by the increased enrollment of the pupils." -SLDI/HESA Alum #10

"I have helped in increment of girl child enrollment especially for vulnerable children. I have increased infrastructures such as classroom, latrines and kitchen cum dining hall." -SLDI Alum #21

School Systems & Operations

School Systems & Long Term Planning

  • Nearly all sisters (29) reported that they improved internal systems within their schools.
    • About half (14) reported the creation or improvement of policy manuals in child protection, school regulations or human resources.
    • 8 sisters implemented financial management systems
    • 5 trained staff, 4 implemented human resource systems
    • 2 created strategic plans.
  • In the 2020 Alumnae Survey, 17.8% (N =511) of alumnae improved school systems.
  • Many sisters (21) engage in long-term panning as well, developing strategic (14), financial (8), and educational (2) plans.

Communication

"The impact [of improved communication] is that there is a healthy relationship between administration, teaching and non teaching staff and students." -HESA Alum #5

  • Sisters (26) described the impact of improved communication in their schools, which included
    • improved relationships (19)
    • increased collaboration between teachers and students (12)
    • increased collaboration outside the school with parents and the local community (8)
  • Sisters (9) also explained the ways communication improved, such as
    • holding training or meetings (8)
    • using technology (2)

Staff Retention & Training

"I managed to lobby for four new academic staff and improve the number of tutors in the college. I managed to engage the management team to improve ways of how we would be able to collect fees and we made a payment plan which made it easier for parents to follow." -SLDI Alum #34

  • Most sisters report that they increased (11) or retained (13) employees in their schools
  • Alumnae Survey results indicate about 13% of alumnae (n=511) increased staff or teachers.
  • Sisters achieved this through
    • motivating employees with rewards or benefits (8)
    • building relationships (8)
    • increasing student enrollment (4)
    • maintaining salary payments (4)
    • offering professional development (3)
    • appealing to higher offices (1)
    • staff training (19)
      • Many sisters prioritized staff training.
      • They offered educational workshops, supported employees' further education
      • They helped staff access training in: leadership, financial management, child protection, technology and workers rights.

Evaluation

  • The majority of sisters (23) evaluate the performance of their schools
  • This is accomplished through
    • benchmarking (6)
    • staff performance evaluations (5)
    • quality assurance (5)
    • testing (3)
    • tracking attendance (1)

Alumnae Performance

Additional Responsibilities

"As the Provincial superior asked me to take office at the national level as one of the secretariat staff members (ARU)...I accepted the invitation backed by the training I went through offered by ASEC.” -SLDI/HESA Alum #8

Most sisters (29) reported taking on additional responsibilities within or outside their ministry. Nine sisters gained responsibilities related to their religious community, five were elected Superior, four led spiritual activities of the school, three taught classes or workshops, three are members of associations, two are Education Board members, two are financial administrators, one is a Boarding Mistress and one is a student. Some of these responsibilities were given to sisters by their Superiors (9) but some new responsibilities were a result of their own initiative (9). Others were asked to take on more tasks by school administrators (4), a bishop or priest (3), the community (2), fellow sisters (1) and /or the government (1).

Professional Development

  • 19 sisters have completed training or certifications as part of their professional development.
  • Sisters report completing
    • specific skill courses (7)
    • religious training (4)
    • certificate programs (4)
    • SLDI (3)
    • Masters of Education degree (2)
    • Bachelor of Education degree (1)
    • conference participation (1)
    • teacher certification (1)

Implementation of Best Practices & Innovative Projects

"Networking with NGOS has enabled us support many of the vulnerable children achieve there [sic] goals through paying school fees. More of those who could not afford to get education due to being orphans / victims of HIV/AIDS can now access education, believing in themselves and living like any other persons." -SLDI Alum #35

  • Nearly all sisters (31) shared best practices or innovative projects they have implemented in their ministries, such as
    • renovated school facilities (10)
    • reached out to vulnerable children (7)
    • implemented practical projects (5)
    • improved use of available resources (4)
    • engaged parents and community (4)
    • implemented policies (3)
    • improved information technology (3)
    • improved teamwork (2)
    • held workshops (2)
    • conducted evaluation projects (2)

Satisfaction with Performance

  • 25 sisters reported that their congregation's satisfaction with their performance
  • 32 sisters reported that they are satisfied with their own performance

"I am very satisfied with my job performance as my school was adjudged the best performing Senior High School in Ghana in the year 2016 and four of my staff within the past five years have won best teacher awards (two at district level and two at National level). My Congregation is satisfied with my performance as the school has seen massive improvement in discipline, academic performance and infrastructural development since my administration." -SLDI Alum #32

Participant Case Study

A case-study is also included in the special evaluation report on Sr. Augustina Thokoa, SNJM. Sr. Augustina is the current Administrator of Mazenod High School in Maseru, Lesotho. She graduated from the SLDI Administration track in 2018. She received her leadership position while she was in the SLDI program and is in her third year leading the school.

Download the Full Report

A PDF version of the full report is available here: Quality Education: ASEC's Impact (April, 2020) 

You may also be interested in reading

Suggested Citation: African Sisters Education Collaborative (2020, April). Quality Education: ASEC's Impact. African Sisters Education Collaborative Special Evaluation Report. Scranton, PA: ASEC.

Acknowledgements

  • Contributing ASEC Staff: Sr. Draru Mary Cecilia, PhD, Jennifer Mudge, LSW, Dr. Tara Lopatofsky, Amy Fedele
  • Additional Committee Members: Sr. Faustina Hasford, Sr. Bibiana Ngundo, PhD, Dr. Ann Rita Njageh, Dr. Amy Paciej-Woodruff

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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
Amy Fedele

Amy Fedele
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Media & Communications Manager  

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