Scholarship Program

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ASEC Bigwa Sisters Secondary School Collage

Bridging the Gaps in Sisters' Educational Needs

ASEC’s Scholarship Program bridges gaps in higher education for sisters in Africa by providing two-year scholarships to complete secondary school or higher education credentials relevant to their ministries. The Scholarship Program currently serves sisters in Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho and Cameroon

Many of our scholarship recipients then pursue training in our Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) and Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) programs.

Scholarships provide the opportunity for a sister to go back to school and learn essential skills to be more effective in her service work to the poor and marginalized. Upon completing secondary school, many scholarship recipients go on to higher levels of education, making them even more effective agents of change in the poor communities they serve.

  • The Scholarship Program was initiated in 2012 to meet the unique educational needs expressed by sisters in Tanzania, where 65% of women religious lack secondary education. ASEC partners with Bigwa Sisters Secondary School in Morogoro, Tanzania to serve sisters in need of secondary school education.
  • In 2016 ASEC expanded the program to Malawi and Zambia. It was determined that women religious in these countries were lacking in opportunities for secondary and diploma level education.
  • In 2020, ASEC identified the need to expand the program to Ghana, specifically to provide scholarships for sisters pursuing degrees and training in Special Education.
  • In February 2020, ASEC piloted a Doctoral Scholarship program, expanding scholarships to Kenya. Two sisters have been selected to study for Ph.D. degrees at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), a current university partner for ASEC's HESA program.
  • In 2021, ASEC decided to expand the Scholarship Program to Lesotho to address the need for educational access to secondary and diploma level education among sisters.
  • In 2023, ASEC expanded the Scholarship Program to Cameroon, adding a seventh country of operation for the program.

Secondary School Scholarships

Bigwa Sisters Secondary School (Bigwa) in Morogoro, Tanzania is a residential high school for religious women who do not have a high school diploma. These women are typically in their twenties and have gone through the formation program in their communities. Giving sisters' the opportunity to complete secondary school opens up new opportunities for them to continue their studies at the certificate/diploma level and beyond. 

  • Sr. Magreth graduated from Bigwa in May 2019 and is using her education to help her congregation develop ministries in Tanzania.
  • As of 2019, 29 scholarship recipients have continued their education through ASEC's HESA program, with two enrolling in both bachelor's and master's degree programs.

ASEC's support efforts at Bigwa are multidimensional. In addition to education scholarships, ASEC also provides two faculty stipends for teacher salaries. ASEC also facilitated the construction of a dining hall, a dormitory, a fish pond and a state-of-the-art Science laboratory consisting of three well-equipped biology, physics and chemistry labs! Our goal is to ensure that our scholarship recipients receive the best education possible and are provided with a safe and healthy environment where they can focus on their studies.

In October 2019, Bigwa received the Most Improved Schools award from the Office of the Regional Administration and Local Government in collaboration with the Examinations Council of Tanzania. We are so proud of our scholarship recipients for playing a part in the school's success! In celebration, ASEC donated ten desktop computers to Bigwa so our students can continue to achieve academic success.

Certificates and Diploma Scholarships

In 2016, ASEC began providing 2-year scholarships to sisters, beyond the secondary school level. With the obtainment of two-year college diplomas/certificates, sisters are able to receive relevant training to become teachers, nurses and more. Sisters with diplomas/certificates are also able to access higher education at the bachelor's degree level and beyond. Several scholarship alumnae have shared with ASEC how receiving diploma/certificate education credentials have impacted their ministries:

  • Sr. Rita obtained her diploma in primary school education to help children in Zambia grow in spirit, in knowledge and in love of God.
  • Sr. Anastasia provides obstetric, gynecological and surgical treatment to patients in Zambia who would otherwise have limited to no access to medical care.

In 2020, a governmental change took place that expanded Zambia's diploma programs from two to three years. This extended the length of the ASEC's Scholarship Program in Zambia to three years so a sister's tuition will be covered for the duration of her studies.

In February 2020, ASEC's Scholarship Program expanded to Ghana to fund scholarships for Catholic Sisters pursuing degrees and training in Special Education.

Doctoral Scholarships (Pilot Program)

The newly piloted ASEC Doctoral Scholarship, launched in February 2020 under the Scholarship Program, is the result of an identified demand stemming from past ASEC evaluation tools and assessments. Attainment of post-graduate degrees in sub-Saharan Africa is low, especially at the doctoral level. In Kenya, doctoral students represent 1.3% of total higher education enrollments, and only 34% of staff at higher education institutions hold a doctorate. As of October 2020, two doctoral scholarship recipients have been identified. The pilot ASEC Doctoral Scholarship has four objectives: To provide opportunities for Catholic sisters in African countries to access and obtain doctoral-level education credentials; To disseminate knowledge and contribute to the literature on Catholic sisters in Africa; To increase African sisters’ competencies and leadership capacities to conduct applied research that informs and enhances their ministries; To increase African sisters’ capacity, through applied research, to strengthen their congregations and/or national conferences’ ability to respond to emerging global issues, integrate findings in their approach to ministry, and more effectively carry out their missions.

Scholarship Program Outcomes*

Since the program's inception in 2012:

  • ASEC has served 371 women religious across 80 congregations via secondary school or higher education scholarships.
  • 211 ASEC-sponsored women religious have graduated, with the following credentials earned: 131 secondary school, 66 diploma-level and 14 certificates.
  • Scholarship recipients hold a 96.7% retention rate and a 3.39 GPA, the equivalent of a B letter grade (N=21).
  • The top fields of study for participants receiving scholarships are form level (secondary school), education and medical sciences.

For more detailed information about our outcomes, please see our evaluation reports and presentations.

*Scholarship Evaluation Report 2019

Meet some of our scholarship recipients

Scholarship Recipient Sr. Mathilde

Sr. Mathilde
Sr. Mathilde would like to be a teacher so she can educate street children and orphans and improve their ways of life.

Scholarship Recipient Sr. Lilian

Sr. Lilian
Sr. Lilian wants to pursue farming so she can provide her community, especially orphans and the elderly, with enough food.

Scholarship Recipient Sr. Hiltruda

Sr. Hiltruda
Sr. Hiltruda wants to study agriculture so she can give her congregation professional input raising livestock and running their farm.

Scholarship Recipient Sr. Anna

Sr. Anna
"I want to be a lawyer because I would like to serve the society those who are suffer from lossing their rights and justice." -Sr. Anna

Scholarship Recipient Fidesta

Fidesta wants to be a medical doctor so she can control diseases like cancer, malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The Scholarship Program Structure

The Scholarship Program Structure

Sisters apply to the program and depending on the support of people like you, ASEC awards scholarships to the best applicants.

Unfortunately, not all Sisters that apply will receive a scholarship. ASEC chooses the top applicants to receive scholarships based on merit and available funding. Scholarships are awarded for the full length of time to complete their education.

Sisters write an aspirational essay about their future goals. At the end of their scholarship, they write another essay reflecting on their experience and sharing their future plans. Usually, our scholarship recipients plan to continue their education or immediately start applying the skills they've learned to effectively serve the poor.

Scholarship Program Evaluation Reports

For questions regarding Scholarship, please contact:

Rosemary Shaver, EdD

Rosemary Shaver, EdD

Senior Program Manager, Programs
[email protected]