Kampala, Uganda, 11 February 2017 - Uganda’s Minister of State for Health Sarah Achieng Opendi highlighted important developments in the country’s healthcare and education sectors at the Aga Khan University’s convocation ceremony in Kampala on Saturday.
In her speech to graduands, Chief Guest Mrs. Opendi, described how nurses and educators from the Aga Khan University (AKU) were making a mark in Uganda. Besides bringing a new perspective and approach to improving Uganda’s education and nursing systems, she noted that AKU was making a significant investment in the country’s future healthcare through its planned 600-bed hospital that will be spread over 60 acres of Kampala.
She said: “AKU’s vision for the hospital is well-aligned with Uganda’s national development plan. It will directly contribute to many of the plan’s goals for the health sector, including upgrading of health infrastructure and the referral system, strengthening leadership and management, attracting specialists, increasing access to emergency obstetric care, improving management of non-communicable diseases, expanding research and capitalizing on the strengths of the private sector.”
Mrs. Opendi added that the University was making a great contribution to the nursing profession which she described as the “lifeblood of Uganda’s health systems”. She stated that the University’s nurses and midwives were actively serving communities in rural and urban Uganda by tackling the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, by reducing maternal and child deaths, and by increasing patient safety in hospitals.
She said that the University, which launched one of the first undergraduate nursing and midwifery programmes in Uganda, has graduated 650 nurses to date with nearly half of those seeking an additional degree or qualification after completing their degree. The number of nurses seeking higher qualifications after graduation, Mrs. Opendi explained, was evidence of how the AKU had developed a thirst for learning and success in its students.
Beyond education, Mrs. Opendi praised AKU’s work in harmonizing nursing standards and regulations across the region – a step that will create a more flexible and adaptable nursing workforce.
“The University has led recent efforts to harmonize nursing and midwifery education, practice and legislation across East African Community member states. This effort has the potential to have a major positive impact on nursing and midwifery in the region.”
She added that the University was having a similar impact across the region in the field of education. Mrs. Opendi noted that in 2014 AKU’s Institute for Education Development trained more than 800 secondary school head teachers from across Uganda under a grant from the World Bank. This capacity building exercise is helping teachers innovate in the classroom and is expected to impact an estimated 345,000 students.
AKU President Firoz Rasul in his welcome address encouraged graduands to remember how their education has equipped them with the skills to tackle challenges around them. He explained that while developing countries such as Uganda face many problems resulting from poverty, hunger, the prevalence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and poor educational attainment in schools; the scale of the challenge makes the task of solving them all the more rewarding.
Mr. Rasul explained: “With the skills you have developed at AKU, you can help to bring about the world we all want to see, in which suffering and injustice have been consigned to history.” In his speech, Mr. Rasul also highlighted how the University’s teaching programmes were tied to Uganda’s healthcare and education needs.
“Today, an estimated 40 percent of Ugandan women give birth without a nurse, midwife or doctor present. To expand access to quality care for women and their babies before, during and after birth, we launched one of Uganda’s first Bachelor of Science in Midwifery programmes in 2015.”
Mr. Rasul urged graduates to never be overawed by challenges around them and to collaborate with those working in similar areas to widen and deepen the impact of initiatives. He used the example of the 15-year partnership between the AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery in East Africa and the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust.
Under the agreement, the two organizations worked together to raise the quality of education while providing scholarships for the vast majority of nursing students. Mr. Rasul noted that a major study of the achievements of the School and its alumni found that graduates are making a significant impact on health systems and the quality of nursing care. “Nearly four in 10 are senior leaders, managers, educators or researchers, and the rest are at the bedside, directly involved in patient care. In addition, approximately seven out of 10 alumni were the first in their family to earn a university degree.”
Mr. Rasul highlighted new Aga Khan University Hospital that is to be built in Kampala that will provide access to treatments and technologies that are currently unavailable anywhere in the country. It is to be the largest investment the University has made to date in Uganda.
He referred to His Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of the Aga Khan University, who while announcing the establishment of the Hospital in Kampala spoke of the need to bring health care that meets global standards to Africa. “When the Hospital is built, His Highness said, ‘it will have brought to Uganda modern medicine in the best conditions, in intimate partnership with public sector health care.’”
Mr. Rasul added: “We are pleased that the Government shares this vision, and that it considers the development of the Hospital a national priority. And we are very grateful for the exceptional support it has provided, and the continuing commitment it has demonstrated to making the Hospital a reality.”
Elaborating on AKU’s steps to partner with national and international development agencies, he added that AKU is also working to improve the quality of pre-primary and primary education in the country.
“Our Institute for Educational Development is working with other agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network on a five-year project to improve learning outcomes in East Africa, with the support of Global Affairs Canada and Aga Khan Foundation Canada. In Uganda, the Institute has already trained more than 900 heads and deputy heads of schools and educators under this project.”
Mr. Rasul concluded his speech by saying: “During your time with us, you have demonstrated integrity, perseverance, creativity and a deep desire to enable others to develop their talents and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.”
“Now, you have the opportunity to join the countless people here at AKU, across Uganda and around the world who are working to address the toughest challenges humanity faces.”
At the convocation, 70 graduands were awarded degrees. The Institute for Educational Development saw 20 graduate with a master’s degree. After today’s convocation, the Institute has 313 alumni. The School of Nursing and Midwifery awarded 50 degrees, leading to a total of 643 diploma and degree holders in Uganda.
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Chartered in 1983, the Aga Khan University (AKU) is a private, autonomous university that promotes human welfare through research, teaching and community service initiatives. Based on the principles of quality, access, impact and relevance, the university has campuses and programmes in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Its facilities include teaching hospitals, Faculties of Health Sciences with Schools of Nursing and Midwifery and Medical Colleges, Institutes for Educational Development, an Examination Board and an Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. A Graduate School of Media and Communications, an East African Institute and an Institute for Human Development are under development while Faculties of Arts and Sciences are to be set up in Pakistan and East Africa. Through its needs-blind admissions policy, the University imbues the most promising leaders and thinkers of tomorrow with an ethic of service and the skills to help communities solve their most pressing challenges.
The Aga Khan University is one of nine agencies in the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of private development agencies with mandates ranging from health and education to architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities.