Education opens doors for Salvatorian Sisters in Africa

Margaret Scola and Sue Haertel

This summer, Sue Haertel returns to Tanzania along with Margaret Scola to lead our English as a Second Language (ESL) program.  Both Sue and Margaret are Lay Salvatorians from the Milwaukee area. They will provide an intense language immersion experience: 73.5 hours of instruction over three weeks. (To compare, a three-credit university course in the U.S. typically meets 45 hours over 12 weeks.) From day one, they’ll encourage our African sisters to use their newfound English skills beyond the classroom, even during meals and at prayer. After the three-week session ends, the sisters will keep their ESL learning materials to continue building their skills and confidence.

Starting in 2013, our French-speaking sisters from the Democratic Republic of Congo have traveled to Tanzania to learn English too. Since participating in the summer classes, Congolese sisters have opened a mission in English-speaking Zambia. The new mission is a testament to how education can help Salvatorian Sisters in Africa strengthen their ministries. The good news is traveling fast. This summer Salvatorian Sisters from Mozambique will join the class.

Provincial Leader Sister Beverly Heitke, SDS says our North American Province is committed to the ESL program at least through 2018. She stresses its deeper impact saying, “The ESL program lays a firm foundation for professional education for our sisters in Africa.”

A faltering path of schooling for young women in Africa makes professional education a high priority for our Salvatorian Sisters there.  At the request of SDS international leadership in Rome, our North American Province is supporting that priority. This professional education initiative is vital for our African Sisters to improve quality of life for their local people. For example, advanced medical training enables the sisters to teach villagers pre- and post-natal care, how to treat malaria, and how to prevent disease. Professional education also equips the sisters to train people in important life skills to become more self-sufficient.

In Africa, most secondary and all university classes are taught in English. Many of our African sisters enter the convent with poor English skills due to lack of books and other classroom essentials in the primary grades. Low confidence in using English is a major barrier to our sisters advancing their studies in social work, health care and teaching. Our English as a Second Language (ESL) program has been breaking down that barrier since 2009.

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