For the tenth consecutive year, we’re offering classes in English as a second language (ESL) to our Salvatorian Sisters in Africa. Local sisters in Tanzania as well as some traveling from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique will take part.
Each summer since 2009, our North American Province has funded and staffed an ESL program to support our African Sisters’ broader professional education initiative. Our North American Province covers the cost of ESL teaching aids and learning materials, as well as expenses for Salvatorians traveling from the U.S. to teach.
Summer 2018 is the third time Sister Barbara Reynolds, SDS and Lay Salvatorian Sue Haertel will team teach the classes, but for each of them, it’s their fifth trip to Tanzania to collaborate with our African units in this vital program. The language immersion is intense: almost 75 hours of instruction over three weeks. (Consider a typical university course in the U.S. meets 45 hours over 12 weeks.) Right from the start, Sister Barbara and Sue will encourage the sisters to use their new-found English beyond the classroom, including during meals and at prayer.
Learning to read, write and speak English lays a foundation for our sisters to succeed in advanced studies in education, vocational training, business administration, nursing and other fields. The sisters must learn English to take exams to progress to the next level of schooling and for most university-level classes.
While culturally, education is not a priority for young women in Africa, secondary school and professional education has become a high priority for our African sisters. At the request of our international leadership in Rome, our North American Province supports that priority. We know the professional education initiative is vital for Salvatorian Sisters to improve quality of life for their local people. For example, advanced medical training enables our sisters to teach villagers pre-natal care, how to treat malaria, and how to prevent disease. Professional education also equips our sisters to train people in important life skills to become more self-sufficient.
Many of our African sisters enter the convent with poor English skills due to lack of resources in the primary grades. Their low confidence in using English can be a major barrier to the sisters advancing their studies. Our English immersion program has been breaking down that barrier since 2009.