Trailblazing: 20 years of the Rufayda al-Aslamia Building
November 18, 2016
Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system. However, in Pakistan, they are generally poorly trained, underpaid and not valued as professionals. Pakistan has a very low doctor-nurse ratio, with 94,766 nurses supporting 184,711 doctors. Of the 162 nursing schools in Pakistan, few have properly trained faculty to teach theory in classes, or clinical teachers to train nursing students in the outpatient department or wards .
The School of Nursing and Midwifery (AKU-SONAM) was established in 1980 in response to this need for a stronger and more balanced healthcare work force. The Rufayda al-Aslamia Building was initiated in 1996, on the basis of a generous donation, to house AKU-SONAM. AKU-SONAM was the first operational academic unit of Aga Khan University and has proved to be a trailblazer in advancing nursing education in the region and providing students an enabling environment and proper career path. The original donation has formed a base for growth and expansion over the last 20 years.
The primary mission of AKU-SONAM is to raise the standing and image of the nursing profession in the country and disseminate new knowledge through research and innovation.
In accordance with the vision, AKU-SONAM organised an International Conference for Nurses and Midwives at the Stadium Road Campus in Karachi, Pakistan on November 17 and 18, 2016. The donor family attended this conference and were recognised and honoured by the University at a ceremony after the conference.
"The Feerasta family has supported AKU since 1985. We are very grateful to them for the gift of the Rufayda al-Aslamia Building." said President Firoz Rasul on the occassion.
Over 3700 alumni have graduated from AKU-SONAM. The alumni have held positions of leadership and policy making at hospitals and schools and have demonstrated excellent leadership outcomes locally and internationally. To provide a few examples: Ms Nuzhat Sultana (Post RN 1999) is now Director, Nursing Services, Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad; Mr Hakim Shah (MScN 2008) is now Director, Institute of Nursing, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi and Ms Naheed Rahim (BScN 2007) is Principle, College of Nursing, Baqai University, Karachi. Both the President and Vice President (Islamabad) of the Pakistan Nursing Council, Dr Rafat Jan and Ms Surriya Shanaz, are graduates of AKU-SONAM. Dr Rafat Jan is also the President of the Midwifery Association of Pakistan.
Over the past 35 years, the national and provincial governments of Pakistan have come to view AKU as an essential source of expertise and have chosen AKU-SONAM to help upgrade public sector nursing and midwifery schools, and selected its curriculum as the standard for the national nursing curriculum, both for Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Pakistan Nursing Council (PNC).