“I Can Fulfill My Dream”: Helping Nursing and Midwifery Students Go Back to School in Northern Mali

In Mali’s remote northern region, the Gao Nursing School was hailed as a model for other regional nursing and midwifery schools in the country and cited as a Center of Excellence in community-supported, performance-based training.

But during the country’s political crisis that began in early 2012, the school was heavily looted and forced to close.

“We had teaching materials here estimated at 160 million FCFA [about $330,000],” said Dr. Hamada Maiga, the school’s director general. “All that was pillaged.”

A committed partnership
USAID and CapacityPlus lead partner IntraHealth International have a long history with the Gao Nursing School, dating back to 2001. After the crisis, CapacityPlus led an evaluation and helped the school develop a five-year strategic plan. But an immediate concern was helping the school get back on its feet and continue providing high-quality training for nurses and midwives—who are urgently needed as the region struggles to rebuild its health system.

Scholarships for students
To help make it possible for students to continue (or begin) their training, CapacityPlus provided 204 financial scholarships to those who were most in need. On December 18, the school hosted a ceremony to award scholarships to recipients—who comprise 37% of the student body—and to receive much-needed new equipment and supplies.

“I’m grateful I can fulfill my dream to be a midwife,” said Fatoumata Cissé, who received a scholarship. “This gesture gave a helping hand to this community affected by the crisis.”

“This scholarship was a great relief to my parents because they’ve had problems paying due to the crisis,” noted Agaïchatou Maiga.

Strengthening preservice education
Enrollment is up 23% this year, according to Dr. Hamada Maiga. In addition, he celebrated the donated teaching materials: “With these supplies, we’re sure that training will be high quality like before.”

CapacityPlus’s monitoring and evaluation advisor, Dr. Demba Traoré, recognizes that even with the project’s support, there is a lot more that remains to be done. “Needs continue to be significant in terms of support for preservice training of health workers,” he said. “If we want the global vision for universal health care to succeed today, human resources for health must be available, and that starts with preservice training.”

Other activities in Mali
Since CapacityPlus’s activities in Mali were able to resume in May 2013, project staff have been making up for lost time. CapacityPlus supported the Ministry of Health in the development of a political commitment to strengthening the health workforce, presented at the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health.

The project also evaluated the status of Gao District’s health system by assessing 19 health facilities. Findings highlighted a need to build health workers’ knowledge and skills in maternal and child health as well as in addressing sexual and gender-based violence. To help, the project held a refresher training for health workers and is developing national training materials in sexual and gender-based violence.

An analysis of the Gao Nursing School highlighted the shortage of teachers and preceptors and the deterioration of the buildings and materials due to looting during the crisis. To help, CapacityPlus supported the school to develop a five-year strategic plan and conducted a training on adult education using the Learning for Performance approach for teachers and clinical preceptors.

To provide health leaders with reliable health workforce data for making policy and management decisions, CapacityPlus supports implementation of iHRIS Manage, open source software for human resources management. Mali is one of 17 countries using iHRIS to capture and manage more than 740,000 health worker records. Training at the five regional health directorates in Gao, Kayes, Koulikoro, Segou, and Sikasso is helping HR managers understand how to use these data for decision-making.

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