Seated from the left: Dr Columba Mbekenga, Professor Bakari Kambi and Mr Saturine Manangwa pose for a picture with alumni during the Alumni Reunion 2019
On November 30, 2019, the Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery in East Africa (AKU-SONAM EA) held its first Alumni Reunion forum for the School based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The forum attracted several alumni, including one who was part of the first class in the year 2002, Ms Loveluck Mwasha, who is the Vice-President of the Tanzania Midwives Association and faculty at AKU-SONAM. Some alumni came from more than 800 kilometres away and others arrived from areas such as Pwani, Mtwara, Morogoro, Kigoma, Mwanza, Mbeya, Njombe, Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.
The reunion was held at the Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel and was graced by Professor Bakari Kambi, Tanzania's Chief Medical Officer (CMO) from the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, who attended as the guest of honour as well as Mr Saturine Manangwa, the Acting Director of Nursing and Midwifery Services in Tanzania's Ministry of Health. More than fifty AKU-SONAM alumni turned up for the event to reconnect through presentations by their fellow alumni, interactive games, tasty meals, panel discussions on the future of nursing in Tanzania as well as elections to choose leaders of the alumni association to chart a path into the future.
Dr Columba Mbekenga, AKU-SONAM's Academic Head for the campus in Tanzania shed more light on the purpose of the reunion, stating that: "We are here to reunite our alumni from all over the country and provide a unique opportunity for them to share professional experiences after graduation while inspiring, motivating and learning from each other."
Professor Kambi praised AKU-SONAM for its ability to produce high-quality graduates as well as bring them together for a successful alumni reunion. He shared that: "Alumni associations are very powerful, especially in helping communities." He further stated that "There is a difference between AKU alumni and alumni from other institutions… I would ask you to also differentiate yourselves in how you work." The guest of honour was quick to note the nursing community's tough history, revealing, "Nursing has had many problems in the past. However, I can confidently say that in the past three years, there have been great changes. Nowadays when you go to hospitals, the nurses even welcome you!" Furthermore, he concluded by emphasizing that the change in nursing in Tanzania has been brought about through communication. He encouraged nurses to maintain contact with the government to enable effective problem-solving.
The speeches, presentations and interactive activities occupied the earlier part of the day, which started at 9 a.m., while the elections consumed the rest of the afternoon. In the end, Ms Sofia Sanga was elected as the chairperson of the Alumni Association, and Ms Elianeth Kiteni was elected the secretary. The alumni seemed to have enjoyed the event as reflected by the new secretary, Ms Elianeth Kiteni who said, "It was such a remarkable event which brought us together from all over the country. We were privileged to hear from the CMO as well as listen to success stories and the challenges we're facing as nurses. We should have this event annually and hopefully, someday we can have all the East Africa alumni together. We are happy to be change agents."
AKU-SONAM EA will be hosting two more Alumni Reunion events, one in Nairobi on December 10, 2019, and another in Kampala on December 14, 2019. Interested alumni can send an email to email@example.com to register. All alumni are welcome!