Skills from Leadership Program Behind African Nun’s Effective Administration: Testimony

Sr. Augustina (center) with students of Mazenod High School in Maseru, Lesotho.
Credit: African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC).

Skills gained from a leadership program for Catholic Sisters in Africa have enabled a nun in the Kingdom nation of Lesotho to effectively manage a school, she has attested in a Monday, October 26 report. seen by ACI Africa.

Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program has helped Sr. Augustina Thokoa improve her leadership skills, making her a better administrator at Mazenod High School in the country’s capital, Maseru, she has testified in the October 26 report.

“[SLDI] has helped me a great deal because I couldn't stand in front of different stakeholders and, you know, address them on issues,” Sr. Augustina who is the school’s Administrator says in the report.

She adds that the program by the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) gave her the “courage and stance to say, ‘Yeah this is what has to be done.’ For that, I’m grateful.”

The program seeks to increase leadership and technology competencies of Catholic Sisters in Africa. Following the program, Sr. Augustina was able to implement financial management changes in the school.

The changes have streamlined the school’s financial system and helped its leadership engage in long-term financial planning, ASEC officials have reported.

According to the officials, Sr. Augustina, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJU), had realized that the school faced significant financial difficulties, especially regarding the boarding facility for the girls.

Through a needs assessment, which she conducted with the school’s stakeholders, the 2018 SLDI graduate “developed a new financial plan, separating the boarding facility finances from the rest of the school,” officials of the 21-year-old initiative say.

SLDI skills also helped the Mazenod High School's Administrator improve the institution’s boarding facility through the installation of a solar power system to reduce electricity consumption and increase available hot water, ASEC leadership has reported.

With the changes Sr. Augustina implemented, enrollment for boarding students has increased by 13, besides that of the entire school, they add.

Towards improving the technological skills of the students, Sr. Augustina who has been at the helm of the school for three years developed a computer lab and equipped it with 70 computers obtained from a partnership with an unnamed company, officials of the U.S-based entity say.

In her tenure as the Administrator, the leadership of the school offers free lunch to the staff besides giving them opportunities for networking and professional development, ASEC officials have reported.

“These benefits for students and teachers served to stabilize student and staff retention, which has remained consistent throughout her placement,” they say in the October 26 report.

ASEC leadership has further reported that overall, Sr. Augustina’s leadership skills have led to “improved academic performance and student behavior.”

With the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicating that the landlocked Southern African Kingdom faces challenges in enrollment and retention in secondary schools as well as a lack of school infrastructure, the leadership of ASEC notes that Sr. Augustina’s leadership is commendable.

“Sr. Augustina's stewardship and dedication to long-term sustainable solutions helped her make a significant impact in these key areas, benefiting the students, teachers and school community she serves,” they say.

They add, “(Her) approach to leadership, learned through the SLDI program, empowers her to work with transparency and effectively collaborate with stakeholders.”

SLDI is the largest of the six program areas of ASEC, a Pennsylvania-based entity that facilitates access to education for women religious in Africa.

Besides increasing leadership and technology competencies of the Catholic Sisters, SLDI aims at supporting the development and continuation of participant mentoring relationships to broaden the impact of the program; and to assist its alumnae to become lifelong learners, educators, and leaders. 

The program also seeks to disseminate best practices and models of innovative access to education, and to assist participants and alumnae to use acquired skills and knowledge to enhance and sustain their ministries. 

Established in 1999 by four Catholic universities in the U.S. and their respective Religious Orders, ASEC’s mission is to facilitate access to education for women Religious in Africa, leading to enhancement and expansion of the education, health, economic, social, environmental and spiritual services they provide.

In the last 21 years, ASEC has served over 5300 Catholic nuns through its various programs.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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