While addressing the Aga Khan University’s 10th convocation in Kampala, Uganda, Rt. Hon. Dr Margaret Nantongo Zziwa, the East Africa Legislative Assembly Speaker, underscored the East African Community’s commitment to enhancing access to quality education by investing in the education sector and creating employment opportunities.
She was the chief guest of the ceremony that saw 54 nurses graduate: 26 students were conferred a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree while 28 others received a Diploma in General Nursing.
Dr Zziwa said there is a need for the timely integration of higher education within the EAC, the regional intergovernmental organisation of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
“The EALA is committed to collaborating closely with the Council of Ministers to ensure that the Inter-University Council of East Africa Bill 2012 is brought to the house for debate and eventual adoption,” she told the attendees at the convocation.
The Bill is scheduled for discussion at the Sectoral Council on Legal and Judicial Affairs next month. The legislation would oversee the EAC states collaborating on key areas of higher education, such as curricula, accreditation process and maintenance of standards and quality.
The Speaker applauded the Aga Khan Development Network for its commitments in development programmes in the EAC partner states and beyond, and noted that it is a trailblazer in socio-economic development in the region.
Dr Zziwa also cited the work of the University as a perfect example of private-public partnerships in East Africa. Since its inception in 2001, about 1,800 nurses in East Africa have graduated from AKU. Students who enrol in AKU’s Advanced Nursing Studies programme are from the private sector as well as from government and faith-based institutions in urban, rural and peri-urban centres where health services are needed the most.
She remarked that there is a need to train more nurses in the region. In rural areas, nurses are often the first point of contact for patients seeking health-care services: one trained nurse may serve up to 20,000 people. Further compounding the vicious cycle of health and poverty in Africa is the fact that a large number of East African nurses are certified but are not trained to manage new as well as re-emerging diseases.
Dr Zziwa congratulated the graduands and called upon them to be ethical in their work and apply their education in improving the quality of life of fellow citizens and in upholding the values of integrity and dignity in their career.
“You are in a unique position of understanding the culture and history of the region,” she said.
AKU President Mr Firoz Rasul was appreciative of the EAC’s encouragement and support: “…for the development of high-quality higher education opportunities for all peoples of East Africa and through that the prosperity of the region.”
He remarked that the principles of quality, relevance, impact and access have been practiced by the University for over 30 years and continues to guide every aspect of the institution’s development. He emphasised the importance of quality in the delivery of health-care and education while benchmarking the University against world class standards.
AKU’s nursing programme in East Africa provides high quality education that allows practicing nurses to study part-time. Admission is through a need-blind policy where merit is the sole criteria for selection. Tuition covers on average only 20 per cent of the cost of a diploma or a degree; the balance is subsidised by the University.
Mr Rasul concluded by warmly congratulating the graduands on their achievement, urging them to uphold the principle of quality as they develop and grow in their career.
The ceremony was attended by vice-chancellors, senior government officials, diplomats, national and international academicians, donors and prominent citizens.