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Cham colleges deliver amidst challenges

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Unless you do acute care in a hospital, you are not a real nurse, so goes a saying in the nursing field.

But Esau Kasonda, who is Ekwendeni College of Health Sciences Principal, thinks that the saying could, practically, be unreal.

Ekwendeni College of Health Sciences, just like other institutions of higher learning in the country, wishes to train as many nurses and midwives as practically possible— especially now, when they are becoming more critical than ever.

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The problem of shortage of nurses and midwives has been a longstanding issue in the health sector. And, as part of the efforts aimed to increase the number of nurses and midwives, thereby contributing to the improvement of healthcare delivery services in the country, Ekwendeni College of Health Sciences identified five nursing roles.

These roles were identified as critical towards meeting the demand forthe delivery of quality healthcare services. Consequently, the school is offering Diploma in Nursing and Midwifery Technician programme, which is like the mainstay and the oldest programme on offer.

The institution, which is a member of Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham), has also been offering University Diploma in Nursing since 2014 alongside Diploma in Clinical Medicine.

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A Certificate in Community Midwifery Assistant is another course that has been on offer since 2013 and a Certificate in Pharmacy Assistant, which was rolled out in November 2017.

Kasonda says it is their expectation that the students would, after their studies, improve the delivery of quality healthcare services in the country.

However, the principal fears that the dream will be hard to achieve because the majority of prospective nurses and midwives cannot afford to pay tuition fees. He says the cost of running a college in Malawi is relatively high, demanding huge investments.

In some instances, this forces institutions to charge high fees to keep themselves afloat.

And, according to Kasonda, this chokes efforts of various players and colleges such as Ekwendeni College of Health Sciences, despite their best efforts to contribute to efforts aimed to increase the number of nurses and midwives in the country.

Innocent Kayula is a lucky student being sponsored by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief at Ekwendeni College of Health Sciences.

Kayula admits that high tuition fees remain a deterrent factor towards increasing enrolment in such colleges.

He says this is further worsened by insufficient scholarship and sponsorship opportunities in the health sector.

“Exorbitant tuition fees are a big concern as my fellow students have to pay all that on their own,” he says.

Cham Training Manager, Winston Saguga, says, last year, Cham colleges registered 5828 (2602 male and 3226 female) students in all of its 11 Colleges. 3698 (63 percent) were pursuing Nursing and Midwifery Technician programme while less than 1 percent were enrolled in Mental Health-Clinical Medicine, Mental Health Psychiatric Nursing and Psychosocial Counselling.

“The year 2017 was a great year for Cham because of the amazing enrolment [numbers] of students in various programmes that training colleges are offering and the enrolment was as follows: 347 Community Midwife Technicians; 700 Clinical Medicine students; 3,614 Nurses Midwife Technicians; 65 Registered Nurses; 264 Registered Nurse Midwives and 21 graduated; 173 Laboratory Technician; 159 Laboratory Technologists; 16 Mental Health Psychiatric Nurses; and, 95 Public Health students,” Saguga says.

The training section at Cham Secretariat exists to provide overall strategic and technical leadership in the delivery of pre-service training of healthcare workers.

The training section coordinates linkages among players in the training of healthcare workers and also assists in resource mobilisation for students’ scholarships. Cham’s training colleges are located within their proprietors’ premises and train over 80 percent of mid-level health workers in Malawi.

Cham Executive Director, Andrew Chikopa, says, despite the challenges that Cham colleges are facing, they continue to make a significant contribution to the production of health workers, and produce 80 percent of the middle level health worker cadres providing healthcare services in the country.

“Thirty seven percent of healthcare in Malawi is provided by Cham facilities and, through Service Level Agreement with the government, poor Malawians in remote rural areas are able to access essential health services for free in these facilities,”Chikopa says.

Last year, the Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi (NMCM) licensure saw almost all the students, including those from Cham colleges, who sat examinations passing.

The performance of nurses from nursing colleges across the country was impressive. Out of 221 students who sat exams, only one failed.

NMCM Registrar, Isabel Musisi, describes the development as good for the nation, considering the demand for trained health personnel in public hospitals across the nation.

Musisi attributes the impressive passing rate to measures put in place by Cham colleges and other nursing institutions because they have been adhering to the council’s requirements as parts of efforts to produce qualified nursing and midwifery technicians.

With such efforts, sick Malawians could be on the path to full recovery from whatever disease pesters them.

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