Ilala District commissioner, Mr Ngwilabuzu Ludigija, Chief Guest at the alumni conference gives his speech at the event
Ordinarily, the Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery East Africa (AKU-SONAM EA) organizes alumni every December to celebrate alumni achievements and reconnect with them. Due to the pandemic, last year's event was pushed to April 16-17, 2021.
In a themed event titled “Be inspired; get access and give back to the community", more than 83 alumni from different parts of the country met at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dar es Salaam on April 17, 2021, with the District Commissioner from Ilala, Mr Ng'wilabuzu Ludigija as the chief guest. However, the festivities had started the day before.
Before the conference, on April 16, the alumni visited the Mwanabwito Health Centre in Kibaha Coast region to conduct health check-ups for members of the local community. As alumni nurses, they conducted a mass health drive that involved blood pressure checks, diabetes screening, eye checkups and clinic checks for mothers and children. This was an important mission as Kibaha, which is east of Dar es Salaam has documented maternal health afflictions including high HIV prevalence among women as well as gender-based violence. This was one of the largest and most effective community outreach drives that AKU has led in Tanzania.
Having achieved the main mandate of the conference - to serve the community – Saturday, April 17 was reserved for celebrating their achievements as alumni as well as deliberating on how nurses can advance their academic careers and clinical practice to affect policy. Those in attendance included the Chief Guest, the District Commissioner from Ilala, Mr Ng'wilabuzu Ludigija, Prof Joe Lugalla (Associate Vice Provost AKU), Dr Eunice Ndirangu-Mugo (Associate Professor and Dean SONAM, EA) as well as Dr Eunice Siaity-Pallangyo (Academic Head for SONAM Tanzania). Also present were alumni who hold senior positions in the government including Regional Nursing Officer, Victoria Bura and Director of Nursing and Midwifery Services, Ziada Sella.
During his address, the chief guest recognized the vital work that nurses and midwives do by saying: “In fact, your [work] category is more important than any other category." He added: “Any comfort that a patient receives usually starts from you". He also applauded the effort made by the University to organize such a conference, noting: “A meeting like this builds good commitment and cooperation amongst the alumni." He also acknowledged the efforts made by the University to develop a programme that allows nurses to study while continuing to provide healthcare services in their various clinical settings. He recognized that clinical training is quite expensive to maintain and committed to advance the conversation to the government to support universities more effectively. In conclusion, he encouraged nurses to provide good customer care to patients by leading by example.
Dr Ndirangu-Mugo thanked the alumni for being active as part of the more than 2700 SONAM EA alumni over the years. She added: “I am really happy to see alumni who started with the School in 2002 to those who will be graduating this year in 2021. Thank you also for providing quality community service because that is what we are called to do as nurses and midwives." She highlighted that she understands the cost of training in clinical practice is expensive and that it is difficult to get healthcare institutions to allow nurses to pursue their degree programmes. To this end, she said: “I would like to thank Johnson & Johnson Foundation for providing scholarships so that many of our alumni could learn and go on to become leading nurses and midwives in the region." The Dean concluded her speech by sharing plans to begin an undergraduate nursing programme soon.
Every year, the School convenes alumni from each of its East Africa campuses into country-specific events geared towards celebrating the achievements of alumni and enabling them to reconnect and network as well as connect with policy-makers and other leaders in healthcare.