Eight needy Bachelor of Science and Nursing Midwifery students have been saved from the verge withdrawing from their university studies courtesy of a five-year agreement supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The US$5 million programme run by Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA) will cover for the provision of student tuition, tablets to enhance their e-learning, uniforms, shoes, food and accommodation, salary to two additional clinical instructors among others.
Kamuzu College of Health Sciences (KUHES) first year students are among the beneficiaries of the academic scholarships whose objectives are to strengthen Malawi’s healthcare delivery system to improve outcomes in maternal and neonatal health, communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Since 2005, GAIA has provided over 500 nursing scholarships and supported universities curriculum review.
GAIA board member Dr. George Chagaluka pointed out the programme aims to increase availability of trained personnel and qualified workers in priority health areas.
He stated that the project will improve maternal health, improve vacancy rate in the health sector through the recruitment of nurse midwifery staff.
Chagaluka challenged the students to work hard and in return show passion towards their calling by providing care to the sick and suffering.
During the event, the students mostly from underprivileged backgrounds sang from their hearts in praise of the timely intervention.
It was a rendition loaded with meaning as it reflected the issues they grapple with; their predicament on where to get money for food, accommodation and basic needs as they begin their journey at the institution of higher learning.
However the scholarships are a guarantee they will be able to finish with less worries and burdens regardless of their humble backgrounds with some of them being orphans.
One of the recipients Kumbukani Mlilima expressed gratitude for the academic boost.
“Before the coming of this scholarship, we were unable to survive at this campus and were about to withdraw due to financial grounds; but so far with the coming of this scholarship, that has not happened.
“We appreciate that they are able to provide everything that we should participate in academic studies very well without any hindrance,” he explained
Guest of Honor Professor Maureen Chirwa who delivered a motivational talk noted that coming from humble beginnings; it’s easy for them to think that they would not amount to anything.
Chirwa who started off as a Registered Nurse and Certified Midwife, advised them that success is all about setting personal goals, determination, being consistent in what one does and goes together with risk-taking.
She is Managing Director for Prime Health consulting and services, shared her life story to inspire them that anybody can succeed in life.
“They just need to turn around their own tables and they are the only ones who are in control to make it happen because USAID and GAIA have provided the platform. So it’s up to them to know where they want to be; the difference that they want to have in their lives and also around their families.
“They must do that in appreciation of their profession to look after the other person who needs their care because they have received for free and let them also do for free to other people.”
KUHES Dean of postgraduate students Dr. Gladys Msisya said the scholarships offer hope to well-deserving students who are selected to university but cannot sustain their stay due to financial challenges
“Nowadays university accommodation is not according to bed capacity but according to how students are passing during their MSCE exams; so for me this scholarship like I’ve stated brings hope to the students. They are constrained financially and the minute they are selected to be awardees of the scholarship, you see their life changing.
“The goodness with the GAIA scholarship is that it doesn’t really focus on their tuition, they’re paying for their accommodation through the upkeep allowance, uniforms and more importantly even when they’ll be completing normally in year four, they’ll have to write a licensure exam and they have to pay for fees and that is also a lot of money it is accommodated within the scholarship.”
The programme will provide 260 scholarships, 240 fellowship positions, recruit 8 Clinical mentors who will be placed in training hospitals, and two lecturers each at KUHEs, St Lukes, Nkhoma and Trinity nursing colleges.