Highness Mlay at AKU's first virtual global convocation ceremony
Highness Mlay could not believe the winding path that led her to AKU’s first-ever global online convocation ceremony. It seems like only yesterday that she was at the AKU Registrar’s Office receiving the disappointing news that she could not gain entry into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) programme at the School of Nursing and Midwifery (SONAM) based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
“I remember going to the Registrar’s Office to submit my hard copy application where I was told that it would not be submitted as I had not fulfilled part of the criteria. I did not have the Physics credit from high school,” recalls Highness.
It was a difficult moment for her as it seemed like the doors had been shut on her dream to become a degree-qualified nurse. “The Registrar’s Office advised me to re-sit the Form Four Physics examinations and I refused. I was so angry that I stormed out of the office.” Highness could not understand how a senior nurse, working in the dialysis unit in Tanzania’s biggest hospital, Muhimbili National Hospital, was expected to go back to secondary school to get a better Physics grade. She decided to look for other nursing schools where she could upgrade her diploma into a degree, but the requirements were similar to those at AKU.
In April 2017, Highness had nearly given up on getting a nursing degree and had started exploring other health-related professions that would accept her Physics grade. “Then my husband came home one evening and asked me whether I was ready to sit for my Physics exam. I was shocked! Of course I said I was not going to do it. I had a job as a nurse already and I do not like physics. How was I going to make it work?”
She had a big decision to make. “Later on, my husband came with a payment slip and when I looked at it, he had paid for my Physics examination resit and a Physics tutor to take me through lessons.”
It was a difficult reality for Highness to accept, but she did not want to disappoint herself by giving up or letting her husband down. For five months, she revised with her tutor, often meeting at home when she was tired or in hotels so that she would not disturb the rest of the family. To add to the strain, she became pregnant while revising to take her examination. It was a difficult season where she took Physics tests every week until October 2018 when she finally sat for the national examinations while pregnant.
Fortunately, after all her hard work and dedication, Highness received a passing grade as well as a lovely baby boy and did not waste any time joining AKU in October 2018. “I was so keen to go to AKU not only because it is an international university, but also because they allow nurses to continue working while studying, and this is important for us. I was quite impressed when I got there. We had a great team spirit as classmates, the clinical supervisors were very supportive and I was able to carry out a project I was extremely passionate about.”
During her time at AKU, Highness was able to embark on a community-based outreach project on gender-based violence, especially involving children, in Kinondoni district, Dar es Salaam. Her study was able to identify the prevalence of gender-based violence and violence against children in her area of study, and she was even able to connect a few children to free health services at her place of work in Muhimbili National Hospital.
“I’m so happy I went to AKU and I would advise any nurse who wants to upgrade their nursing career to join AKU.” Highness added: “I also want to thank the Johnson & Johnson Foundation for providing scholarships for my classmates and I. Without the financial assistance, many of us would not be able to go to school.”
The future is bright for Highness Mlay, who is set to be promoted to a Nurse Officer 11 position at Muhimbili National Hospital after completing her degree. She intends to pursue a Master’s degree in Nephrology given her extensive experience in dialysis.