Zambia embraces technology to increase health worker numbers

Celebrations mark graduation of first class of eLearning nursing students

Nairobi, September 14, 2017

Song, dance and colour filled the Levi Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola town today as thousands of people turned up to witness the 41st Combined Graduation Ceremony for registered nurses and midwives in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province.

A total of 1,039 students from 10 health training institutions received diplomas in nursing and certificates in midwifery at the largest ever graduation of health workers in the region. The event was also exceptional because among the graduates was the first group of 67 eLearning registered nurse students in the country, whose performance in the national exams was significantly higher than the national average. 
 
Presiding over the ceremony, the Copperbelt Permanent Secretary Mr Elias Kamanga said that the Zambian Government was keen to promote public health by expanding health and transport infrastructure, equipping health facilities and finding ways to train more health workers.
 
 
The graduate nurses, he said, would all be employed in the next three months and would play a key role in health promotion and disease prevention in the communities. 
 
Also present at the event were Group CEO of Amref Health Africa Dr Githinji Gitahi, CEO and President of ChildFund International Anne Lynam Goddard, and Programme Manager for Youth Livelihoods at the Mastercard Foundation Mr Koffi Assouan. 
 
Since 2013, Amref and Childfund have partnered to implement the Zambia Nurses Lifeskills Training Programme, which employs technology for training nurses and midwives, with funding from Mastercard Foundation. The programme supports the goal of the Ministry of Health to increase production of health workers in Zambia. 
 
The best overall student in eLearning, 23-year-old Daniel Kumwenda, got straight As in all theoretical and practical exams.
 
Commending Daniel and all other eLearning graduates for their impressive performance, Dr Gitahi said that the students had demonstrated the effectiveness of eLearning to close the gap of health worker training in Africa. 
 
 
“Amref began training nurses using eLearning 10 years ago, with consistently high results. The success we have had validates this approach. Africa must embrace technology and use the tools of our times to accelerate achievement of universal health care for our people,” he said.
He added: “It is commendable that the Ministry of Health has embraced eLearning as a viable and acceptable teaching methodology for healthcare workers. It is very interactive, students have content with them everywhere they go, and they are able to work even as they learn.”
 
Anne Goddard noted that the Zambia Life Skills Training Programme, through which the eLearning training for nurses is provided, has responded to the rising unemployment of youth in Zambia, lack of job preparedness and nursing shortage in the country, especially in the rural areas. She thanked the ministry of health for its support in rolling out the programme.
 
Besides providing employment for youth and bridging the gap in the nursing workforce, the eLearning initiative is also aimed at addressing maternal and child health.  The infant mortality rate in Zambia is just over 70 for every 1,000 live births while approximately 59,000 women die in child birth every year.
Ends
 
To the Editor:
About Amref Health Africa
Amref Health Africa is an international health development organisation founded and headquartered in Kenya. Our vision is lasting health change in Africa.
 
Amref Health Africa began in 60 years ago as the Flying Doctors of East Africa to provide critical medical assistance to remote communities in East Africa. Today, Amref Health Africa works with the most vulnerable African communities through its country programmes in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as offices in Zambia, Malawi and South Africa, and our West Africa regional hub based in Senegal. Through our laboratory, clinical outreach and training programmes, Amref Health Africa reaches an additional 30-plus countries in Africa. The oganisation has 11 offices in North America and Europe which support the operations in Africa through advocacy and fundraising. The Amref International University, based in Nairobi, opens its doors in January 2018 and will offer courses that are tailored to increase the capacity, quality and numbers of health workers in Africa.
 
With 60 years of experience in delivering health care and building health systems in Africa, Amref Health Africa supports those at the heart of the communities, particularly women and children, to bring about lasting health improvement. Amref Health Africa works with the people of these communities to build their knowledge, skills and means to improve their health (including health systems strengthening and capacity building). To do this, partnership and networking are key elements of Amref Health Africa’s approach.
 

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