18 Dec, 2020

Seasons Greetings from ESSA

A message from Dr. Lucy Heady, Chief Executive Officer at Education Sub Saharan Africa (ESSA) as she highlights key achievements from 2020 to end the year.

Students in SSA

As we near the end of an epic 2020, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on ESSA’s achievements during this unprecedented year. 

It has been a turbulent time for us all and we at ESSA have been grateful that the team has stayed safe and well throughout.

Back in March when the global pandemic hit, the ESSA team were lucky to already working remotely. We adapted quickly, focusing on maintaining our support to those at the forefront of education in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Adapting did not come without challenges. Most notably the strain placed on many of our partners and the tertiary education sector in sub-Saharan Africa, are highlighted in our Learning in Crisis report

Despite these, I am incredibly proud of our partners and those we work with – including students, educators and policy leaders – for coming together to protect education as a fundamental right for all during this crisis.  

No one will remember 2020 fondly but looking back on the year, there are many achievements we can be proud of, and our contributions to transforming education together give me hope for a brighter 2021.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • In January we kicked off the year by continuing to work on solutions to the faculty crisis in Ghana, alongside the Ghanaian government, to develop practical tools for faculty recruitment.  

  • We continued to work with our expert consortium of partners - IUCEA, AAU and PRB - to run a workshop in March in Kampala, Uganda, to begin exploring the faculty crisis in East Africa. 

  • In April we saw the launch of our first Impact Report, highlighting ESSA’s journey from start-up. We also brought together a group of scholarship funders and providers to talk about how we could work together to increase the impact of scholarships for young people.

  • I was honoured to be appointed as ESSA CEO in June and hit the ground running with a busy month. In an extremely proud moment, our scholarships analysis  was featured in UNESCO’s 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report, as the monitoring of the SDG on scholarships. The Financial Times reported on our analysis – showing this work is not only of use to the sector, but a broader public good. 

  • Our team and Board expanded, most notably with the exciting appointment of our three new Trustees in July; Nancy, Dolika and Kendi. Each of whom have brought invaluable expertise, energy and ideas.

  • In August we were delighted to see further use of our African Education Research Database, created in partnership with the REAL Centre at the University of Cambridge to raise the profile of African research in the field of education. Two new academic articles were published drawing on over 4,000 pieces of research now available in the database. ​ 

  • In September we put our scholarships evidence into action, launching the African Scholarship hub which hosts scholarships from over 350 providers. This is a step towards our aim of increasing access to higher education for students from sub-Saharan Africa.

  • In October we ran workshops to explore increasing access to vital education data for  use by African scholars and policy makers.

  • November saw the launch of our survey for female students, graduates and faculty; to better understand the barriers they face accessing leadership skills and roles. 

  • In a lovely way to end the year, we launched our African Jobs Board in December – the first pan-African academic jobs board - in partnership with Warwick Employment Group and AAU.

In 2021, we will seek to build on these successes, ensuring that evidence and data have a real impact on outcomes for young people. It will be a particularly important year for us as we will be turning 5 years old. 

We hope you will continue to be part of our mission as we launch an ambitious 5-year strategy designed to support a data and evidence-led transformation of tertiary education in sub-Saharan Africa.​  

I wish you all a peaceful holiday season and prosperous New Year. 


Lucy Heady CEO


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