LINDA NYONDO, Lusaka
THE day finally came, it was September 14, 2017 when 90 students of nursing who had enrolled in e-learning nursing training to pursue a three year programme were graduating.
Annie Goddard, the President of ChildFund International was present to witness the historic moment at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
The excitement of seeing the students graduate and the successful implementation of the e-learning nursing programme which is the first of its kind in Zambia was evident on her face, she smiled all throughout the ceremony.
“The e-learning training programme or should I say the blended programme is an exciting programme which will create jobs for the youths. The Ministry of Health will also address concerns of low staffing levels in Zambia,’’ she said.
According to the Ministry of Health, Zambia has a deficit of 20 000 nurses that the country needs to address to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) requirement.
This year, the Ministry of Health has pledged to train 7000 nurses who will minimise the challenges in staffing and possibly reduce the ratio of patient to nurse in the country.
With the introduction of the e-learning programme in Zambia, Ms Goddard was optimistic that more and more nurses will be trained within a short period of time.
E-learning, unlike the traditional training where a student is required to sit in a classroom, e-learning can accommodate as many students as possible at a given time.
This is because the traditional training of nurses in Zambia can only take up to 40 to 50 students at a given time.
Under the e-learning training, students were provided with tablets which had all the academic materials, including videos. The students had adequate information.
Other than availing the students with academic materials and videos, the students conducted face to face learning with the tutors where they also did practical learning.
The graduates were school leavers who were awarded scholarships by ChildFund to enable them pursue the nursing course. The beneficiaries are mostly from vulnerable families.
Ms Goddard’s excitement is partly because the programme has helped to empower vulnerable youths who also look forward to improving health service delivery in Zambia.
She said that the programme will next year be handed over to the Zambian government that has created an e-learning department in readiness to take over from ChildFund and AMREF who are the current implementers of the programme.
“Staffing levels of health workers is always better in urban areas than in rural areas. But we are confident that the staffing levels in rural areas will improve because some of the students who have pursued the e-learning nursing course will be posted to rural areas,’’ she said.
ChildFund regional director Victor Koyi who was also present during the graduation ceremony said the students who had undergone the e-learning training will be able to deliver quality health care service to patients.
Mr Koyi said the General Nursing Council (GNC) has been working closely with Childfund and AMREF to ensure that a criteria is followed when implementing the e-learning nursing training.
ChildFund International has been operating in Zambia implementing child related programmes aimed at improving the welfare of vulnerable children since 1983.
The organisation’s goal to uphold the rights of children and end violence against children led them to start an advocacy campaign prior to the formulation of Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) against child violence.
The campaign foresaw the inclusion of SDG 16.2 which focused on ending extreme violence, exploitation and abuse against children.
ChildFund is developing a child friendly mechanism accountability programme which will hold governments accountable to making community child protection systems work.
The organisation is also a member of the African Union committee of experts on the rights of children.
Mr Koyi said that the committee of experts looks at how African countries are investing in children.
ChildFund has been running a campaign to end violence against children.
Mr Koyi said violence is a cultural issue that needs to be addressed urgently.
“We commend Government for coming up with laws to deter would be offenders. We have developed a mechanism that will help us focus on would be offenders. We have community based focused approach when implementing programmes to end child violence,’’ he said.
The regional director said ChildFund has realised that there is need to put in structures in the community which have a child friendly approach.
Mr Koyi noted the importance of the media in informing and educating the public adding that the institution ensures that the voices of children are championed in all advocacy programmes.
ChildFund acknowledges that parents and guardians are the most important to help reduce child violence because, sometimes, they may not differentiate between disciplining a child and correcting a child.
Ms Goddard said children have suffered violence at the hands of their parents and guardians who have always thought that they are disciplining the child.
“One of the benefits of parents knowing about child violence is that it contributes to ending gender-based violence (GBV) in homes,’’ she said.
Ms Goddard identified poverty as one of the major causes of child violence.