Ready, Set, Study: CapacityPlus Accelerates Nigeria’s Production of New Health Workers

Pius Emmanuel Uwamanua On February 19, 2013, CapacityPlus launched a scholarship bursary scheme, one of its mechanisms for supporting preservice education in Nigeria. The launch events, held in Edo and Benue States, were well attended by government dignitaries and by beneficiaries of the assistance. For me, it was a joyful thing to see smiles on the faces of indigent students who now could breathe some air of hope.

CapacityPlus/Nigeria is working to increase the numbers of health workers to meet the priority health needs of underserved populations. The project aims to boost the number of new health workers produced in Nigeria—in particular by supporting the preservice education and qualification of midwives and community health extension workers—accelerating Nigeria’s contribution toward PEPFAR’s target of supporting the training and retention of more than 140,000 new health workers.

In September 2012, CapacityPlus conducted an assessment of 19 health training institutions in six states and Abuja: three nursing schools, seven midwifery schools, and nine health technology schools. Findings from the assessment revealed the most common reasons for student attrition and inadequate production of health professionals, including:

  • Financial difficulties
  • Lack of transportation to schools and/or practicum sites
  • Insufficient training for faculty and staff
  • Inadequate or unavailability of library books, equipment, demonstration models, and teaching aids
  • Infrastructure deficiencies.

To mitigate gaps revealed by the assessment, CapacityPlus is providing a package of interventions to improve the overall learning environment for midwifery and community health extension worker students. The first of these activities is directly supporting students in their final year of training. CapacityPlus provided scholarship and bursary awards to 874 students in 31 states and Abuja in order to reduce student drop-out rates, and increase the percentage and numbers of new graduates successfully completing their training and professional examinations.

My colleagues and I spoke with some of the participants who attended program launch events about the potential impact the scholarships will have on the health workforce. A beneficiary from the School of Midwifery in Asaba told us, “The scholarship will help me pay some of the school fees I was unable to pay.” A provost from a school of health technology in Ufuoma Delta State further explained how easing financial burdens will help: “As a student when you are going to school and you do not have money, naturally you are not likely to do well academically…with the scholarships, they will have money to pay their school fees and attend to their studies.”

I too am optimistic that the scholarships, along with other CapacityPlus interventions like the purchase of new library books and updated training for faculty, will lead to an increase in the number of students passing their national examinations, and ultimately more qualified and skilled health workers saving more lives in service!

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Photo by James Williams/MOG Com (Digital)