Address by Professor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile
Governor, Bank of Uganda
Chairman Saidullah Khan Dehlavi;
Members of the Board of Trustees;
Mr Firoz Razul, President;
Mr Mahmood Ahmed, Resident Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network;
Provost Dr William Doe;
Distinguished Guests, Faculty Members, Staff and Students;
I would like to begin by thanking the Aga Khan University for according me the honour of chief guest at this graduation ceremony and for giving me the opportunity of addressing you today. It is both an honour and a pleasure, not least because it affords me the opportunity to pay tribute to the tremendous contribution which the Aga Khan Development Network is making to the development of Uganda, especially in the area of human resource development which is so vital for the future of our nation.
I want to extend my warmest congratulations to all of the students who are graduating today with Diplomas and Bachelor of Science degrees in Advanced Nursing Studies. It is a great achievement for you. You should feel proud of your richly deserved academic success, achieved by dint of your hard work and aptitude, supported by the dedicated teaching of the University faculty. I am sure that your families have also been a fount of support for your studies and will take great pride in your graduation. The Greek playwright Sophocles said: "the ideal condition, would be, I admit, that men be right by instinct, but since we are all likely to go astray, the reasonable thing is to learn from those who can teach". I trust that what you have learned at this University will prove invaluable as you return to your careers in the health service.
You have all chosen to pursue careers as health professionals. That is a noble choice because you have devoted your careers to the alleviation of suffering. Nearly two and a half thousand years ago, Hippocrates, who is often regarded as the philosophical father of western medicine, expressed a philosophy which has motivated doctors and nurses ever since, when he reputedly said, "Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also the love of humanity". Many thousands of Ugandans in the years to come will have reason to be profoundly grateful that you have chosen to devote your careers to healing and caring for the sick.
You will face many challenges in your careers - the health problems of this country are immense and the conditions under which nurses must work are often very difficult. But I am confident that the training you have received at the Aga khan University has equipped you to overcome these challenges. I also believe that, as a result of your studies here you will all be able to provide exemplary professional leadership to your colleagues in the health service; leadership which will contribute to improved management of health facilities and to better health policies.
Ralph Wall Emerson said, "Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage"
The health status of the Ugandan population leaves much to be desired. Infant and child mortality rates are very high, nutrition is poor, preventable communicable diseases remain widespread, the average fertility rate of Ugandan women is almost medieval, far too many people suffer death and injury in unnecessary accidents in the workplace and on the roads and the so called lifestyle diseases, previously rare in this country, are becoming more common, especially in the urban areas
Improving the health of our nation will require changes in many areas. Higher living standards, more hygienic living conditions and an expansion of quality health services are clearly prerequisites for improved health. The health status of Ugandans will also benefit from a change in attitudes with people encouraged to adopt a healthier lifestyle and avoiding actions which are harmful to health. This requires health education. As professionals on the front line of delivering health services in Uganda, the graduates of this University will understand the need to change public attitudes towards health and have an important role to play in bringing this change about.
The approach adapted by the Government of Uganda to health sector development recognises that a variety of different stakeholders have important contributions to make in providing health services to the population and training medical personnel. The non-government not-for-profit sector, of which the Aga Khan Development Network is a prominent actor, brings resources, skills and often more efficient management to health services. In doing so it both enhances the quality of health care in Uganda and enables health services to be extended to areas where government alone in unable to reach.
It is now approaching 10 years since the Uganda campus of the Aga Khan University was established and began providing courses under its Advanced Nursing Studies programme. It is thus opportune to reflect on what has been achieved by the University over the course of the last decade and the contribution it has made to strengthening human resource capacities for the health sector. The University has focused on the education and training of nurses because of the central role which, nurses' play in the health service. Nurses are key professionals on the front line of health care delivery, especially in primary health care facilities across the country. Many patients visiting health facilities have much more contact with nurses than with other health professionals. Hence the quality of health care depends critically on the quality of the nursing profession.
Furthermore, one of the most acute constraints in the Ugandan health sector is the widespread staffing shortages, affecting all grades of health professionals but especially doctors, which is partly the result of remuneration which is internationally uncompetitive. In these circumstances, upgrading the skills of nurses so that they can assume greater responsibilities for providing health care and managing health facilities may offer a more efficient and sustainable solution to the human resource constraints in the health service than much more expensive investment in the training of physicians.
Since the inception of the Uganda campus of the Aga Khan University, more than 300 students, including those graduating today, have received diplomas or Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing, enabling them to enhance their nursing skills, deepen their knowledge of medicine, strengthen their understanding of the ethics of health care provision and develop their capacities for leadership. The University has filled a vital gap in providing ongoing vocational and graduate education for practising nurses, which is available in few other institutions in Uganda or indeed elsewhere in East Africa. The University has made an especially important contribution to the professional education of women in this country.
Those of you who are graduating today are further testimony to the vision of the Aga Khan in setting up the Uganda campus to provide a unique educational opportunity for nurses in this country. You will be able to use the knowledge and skills that you have acquired to boost your own careers and to strengthen your contribution to health service in Uganda. You can help make Uganda a better place. I hope also that you will continue to upgrade your professional knowledge and skills throughout your careers, whenever opportunities arise and by whatever means are available.
The world does not stand still and new discoveries are continuously being made which can enhance our understanding of medicine. To return once more to the wisdom of Hippocrates: "Life is short, the craft so long to learn".
Thank you and good luck to you all.