In a country where the number of patients outmatches the number of nurses and midwives by mindboggling ratios, becoming a mother qualifies as a matter of life and death.
It is with this background that Amref Health Africa sought funding from Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) to implement an e-learning program for midwives. The e-learning model that Amref implements is in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Sports, Uganda Nurses and Midwives Examination Board (UNMEB) Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council (UNMC) and partnering nursing schools.
Through this programme, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Electronic learning (e-learning) refers to education delivered through the Internet, intranet or CD, to access a curriculum outside of a traditional classroom.
The aim of the project is to train 1,000 midwives in Uganda by the end of 2020 and also celebrate Esther Madudu, a Ugandan Amref Health Africa-trained midwife fronted for a 2015 Nobel peace prize.
The Amref programme has been rolled out in a number of districts and is already yielding fruits. I visited Masaka last week for a tour of some centres where the programme is implemented.
At Teguzibirwa Domiciliary Clinic, Sarah Namubiru is attending to a patient when we arrive. Namubiru is a beneficiary of the programme, having graduated two months ago. She pauses her work as she takes us through her day and boasting about how she is now a better medical personnel.
Namubiru explains that to access course material, a registered student logs in to www.learning.amref.org and get to the learning management system (LMS). LMS is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of e-learning education courses. Her added knowledge has helped her even build an extension block which will enable the clinic admit inpatients.
“Right now I am able to handle more complicated cases with expecting mothers and I am also training other nurses,” she says.
However, despite the successes the project is enjoying, participants are facing some daunting challenges. For instance, at Lyantonde town council Domiciliary Clinic, Ruth Matovu, one of the midwives is one of the members of the e-learning programme, having started in 2014 and expects to graduate this year.
However, Matovu bemoans the high tuition fees.
“We have to pay Shs 1.5m per semester, which is too high and yet we have very limited face-to-face classes with the tutors.”
Shamim Nayebare, who is also under the same programme, concurs and adds: “Amref Health Africa should at least try and help us get laptops, because you find that when you leave the clinic it’s hard to access internet in Masaka.”
Other challenges, according to Nayebare, include a student feeling a sense of detachment from school and not always being self-motivated, which e-learning demands.
But on the other hand, Nayebare says that she used to deliver five babies a day but with the new skills, she can deliver up to 15 babies safely with no glitches.