Scholarships Help 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],” says Dr. Hamada Maiga, the school’s director general. “All that was pillaged.”

IntraHealth International has a long history with the Gao Nursing School, dating back to 2001. After the crisis, the IntraHealth-led CapacityPlus project 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—cadres of health workers that are urgently needed as the region struggles to rebuild its health system.

Scholarships Come as a Great Relief

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, 2013, 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,” says recipient Fatoumata Cissé. “This gesture gave a helping hand to this community affected by the crisis.”

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

Enrollment at the Gao Nursing School is up 23% this year, according to Dr. Maiga. And the new teaching materials IntraHealth donated are a great help. “With these supplies, we’re sure that training will be high-quality like before,” he says.

CapacityPlus’s monitoring and evaluation advisor, Dr. Demba Traoré, recognizes that even with the project’s support, much remains to be done. “If we want the global vision for universal health care to succeed today, human resources for health must be available,” he says. “And that starts with preservice training.”

A National Commitment to Rebuild Health

Since May 2013, when project activities in Mali resumed, staff have been making up for lost time. IntraHealth worked with the Ministry of Health to develop a political commitment to strengthening Mali’s health workforce. The ministry presented the plan at the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health last November.

CapacityPlus also evaluated the status of Gao District’s health system by assessing 19 health facilities. It found that health workers’ knowledge and skills in maternal and child health, as well as in addressing sexual and gender-based violence, must be improved. So IntraHealth held a refresher training for health workers and is developing national training materials in sexual and gender-based violence.

Analysis of the Gao Nursing School found a shortage of teachers and preceptors and confirmed that buildings and materials are deteriorating due to looting during the crisis. IntraHealth has helped the school to develop a five-year strategic plan and conducted a training on adult education using the IntraHealth-developed Learning for Performance approach for teachers and clinical preceptors.

Mali is one of 17 countries using iHRIS Manage, an application in IntraHealth’s open-source iHRIS software suite, to capture and manage health workforce data. Worldwide, iHRIS holds more than 740,000 health worker records. IntraHealth is now helping to train HR managers at the five regional health directorates in Gao, Kayes, Koulikoro, Segou, and Sikasso to use these data for health workforce planning and decision-making.

The global CapacityPlus project is funded by the US Agency for International Development. A version of this article was originally published by CapacityPlus.

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