14 Dec, 2023

ESSA's 2023 Highlights And Year-End Wishes

Dear Friends,

Thank you for all your support over an exciting year of growth for ESSA. In 2023, we have deepened our work to strengthen education research in Africa and have collaborated with higher education leaders, policymakers, and industry to use evidence to tackle systemic problems in education.

I always say that at ESSA, how we work is at least as important as what we do and so I wanted to share those highlights from the last year that exemplify how we live our four values (Evidence-based, Strengthening Trust, Solutions-focused and Always Learning):   

  • The Demographics of Faculty in the East Africa Community (EAC) consortium (ESSA, the Inter-University Council for East Africa, the Population Reference Bureau, and the Association of African Universities) uses evidence to raise the profile of faculty challenges in the region. In 2023, the consortium used key data points from its first phase to engage higher education leaders across the East African Community and Africa as a whole.

    We are thrilled to be currently working on Phase 2, also supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. This phase digs deeper into the systemic issue of the scarcity of data on faculty and higher education systems in the region. Over the next two years, our aim is to foster a culture of data collection and collaboration, striving for a coordinated and unified approach to data in higher education. This transformative step is crucial in supporting policymakers to design and implement evidence-based reforms.  

  • This year, we started working with a new partner, Southern Hemisphere, to conduct a consultation on Enhancing Education Research in Africa. This initiative is supported by Echidna Giving, Imaginable Futures, and the Jacobs Foundation. The process is designed to strengthen trust by collaborating with researchers in Africa to identify the necessary steps to establish a robust and sustainable African education research ecosystem.

    We conducted five in-person consultations at conferences in East, West, and Southern Africa, complemented by desk research and key informant interviews involving women and early-career researchers. Look out for our situation analysis, scheduled for early 2024, followed by the full report with funding strategies for education research in Africa by year-end.  

  • In June, we unveiled our report, 'What Next? Enhancing African Students' Transition to Employment through Effective Career Services,' in Accra, Ghana. The launch brought together employers, university leaders, policymakers, and youth, focusing on solutions and identifying actionable steps to enhance job opportunities post-graduation. Our new partnership with In-Hive in 2024 is an exciting step toward implementing the report's recommendations, particularly in alumni selection and mentorship. By linking employers and educators and implementing evidence-based solutions, we are actively ensuring a smoother transition from school to work for young people. 

  • It was a joy for the team to host 53 researchers and policymakers from 21 African countries in Nairobi in partnership with the REAL Centre. The workshop's focus was to learn from the collective experience in the room to generate practical, demand-driven solutions aimed at garnering greater support from funders and policymakers.

    You can read more details about the workshop, which was funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in the workshop report and articles on DEVEX and LinkedIn by Nangamso Mtsatse.

All this work and more has been accomplished by our dedicated team of staff and trustees. It has been immensely gratifying to see our team grow with new colleagues from Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Togo, and Uganda. Our offsite meeting in June provided an opportunity for the team to strengthen bonds and generate ideas to enhance our impact.

Additionally, we had the privilege of welcoming two new trustees to the ESSA board: Jonathan Ane, CEO of Kulaana, joined us in March, bringing his extensive experience in financial services, telecoms, and publishing, while Professor Elsie Kauffman joined us in June, with a wealth of experience as a Ghanaian academic and biomedical engineer. Alongside welcoming new members, we also bid a heartfelt thank you and farewell to Joachim Rogall and Dolika Banda as they stepped down from ESSA’s board after a combined eight years, sharing their wisdom and insights. We would not be where we are now without them.

Looking ahead, we will continue to focus on strengthening partnerships and finding new opportunities to use data and evidence to tackle systemic challenges facing education in Africa.

I hope our work has inspired you! If you are an ESSA supporter, thank you. If not, please consider us for your year-end giving or sharing our work more widely with your network. Thank you! 

I hope you can take a well-deserved rest at the end of the year and wish you and your loved ones a joyful holiday season. Looking forward to working with you in 2024! 

Warmest wishes,

Lucy Heady,


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