In one of the rooms on the second floor of the iconic Ambalal House in Mombasa, a group of 20 young ladies watches as one of them attend to a ‘patient’.
The room has a hospital bed, a fully equipped laboratory and a smart library. A video projection is on one of the walls, displaying an ongoing lesson.
This is the facility where nursing students take their digital lessons. The training is facilitated by Ujuzi Fursa Africa, a social enterprise that leverages technology to offer nursing and healthcare lessons to its learners.
“They are now doing the practical lessons. These students were on internship a month ago,” says Nabila Khanbhai, Ujuzi’s Chief Operating Officer.
The bedridden patient is not a human being, but a 3D dummy that the students use for their practical lessons.
“A good number of the students were employed in hospitals where they did internship because they were found to be too good,” says Khanbhai.
Pascaline Nzembi was an ICU nurse until last year when she was contracted by Ujuzi Fursa Africa to be a tutor in the Mombasa facility which opened in January this year.
“I teach them using these dummies, demonstrations and video and animation classes. Every student has a tablet and a pair of earphones,” says Nzembi.
She says that for every practical lesson, there is a corresponding video lesson that every student should watch to understand better the subject matter.
Khanbhai takes me to the library that only has furniture – tables and chairs. No shelves, no books. Just furniture and enough lighting.
“We don’t use books. They come here with their laptops to study. Everyone uses earphones so that there is no noise. In fact, everything here, including assessment and examinations is done online,” she says.
To safeguard the integrity of the exams, the tests are set by examiners in Singapore and the US. The examiners also assess the students, via Skype and WhatsApp video calls. The students take the test by using the dummies to demonstrate and explain what they have learnt, while the examiner watches and listens virtually.
During exams, Pascaline Nzembi, the nurse and tutor in charge of the students, is not allowed in the exam room.
The class is full of female students, and my presence in the room is so conspicuous. I’m the only male around. At first, I thought the lessons are meant for women only. I was wrong.
“We accept all people, not ladies alone. Perhaps it is because of stereotypes that men are not coming to enrol,” says Christine Wakesho, who doubles as the administrator and sales executive for Ujuzi Fursa Africa in Mombasa. Nursing is mainly perceived as a women’s domain, especially in Africa.
The majority of these students are fresh from high school. However, some have finished college and even university. One of them is a graduate with a bachelor of science in nursing. She came to get more hands-on experience and the certification that comes with the completion of the classes.
Some other students, Nzembi noted, are those with relatives abroad, who want to get the requisite skills then go work in foreign countries.
“Caregivers and nurses earn better abroad than in Kenya. In addition, male nurses and caregivers are in a higher demand abroad than here. Unfortunately, we have very few male students here,” she said.
In the same room across where the practical lessons are taking place, another group of 32 youths are learning by videos projected on a wall. These, Khanbhai says, are the ones sponsored by Swahilipot Hub. It was their second day in class. They will study for two months, proceed for internship for a month before they return to do exams.
Swahilipot Hub, a technology centre in Mombasa, recently partnered with Ujuzi Fursa Africa to train coastal youth in nursing and home care skills at the facility. Swahilipot will pay about Sh2 million for 35 youths.
The four-month training will enable the youth to obtain nursing and caregiving skills which will enable them get jobs in hospitals and private homes, in Kenya and abroad.
The students are required to attend the daily classes for 8 hours a day, with two hours dedicated for practicals in the lab.
Ujuzi Fursa has provided the learners with tablets to facilitate the training.
Ujuzi Fursa Africa’s chief executive officer, Jinit Shah, said there is a high demand for trained home caregivers in Mombasa, and they look forward to bridging the gap.
“Most of the people here in Mombasa who work as homecare givers are not Mombasa natives. They come from other parts of the country,” he said.
“This is because of a lack of training institutions for such services. That’s why we have brought this opportunity for the locals.”
Ujuzi Fursa Africa, a social enterprise has been working and offering homecare services and training only in Nairobi, until six months ago when it expanded into Mombasa. In the last five years, the enterprise has trained more than a thousand youth in Nairobi. It has trained 40 in Mombasa.
Swahilipot Hub, through the Global Opportunity Youth Network, has sponsored the youths to enroll in the four-month programme. The training costs Sh55,000 per individual.
The minimum qualifications for the candidates for the programme are a D+ (plus) in high school grade and English language proficiency. However, the community health workers who have worked for some time are also eligible, even if they dropped out of school in class eight.
Shah says that the 40 youths who have been trained in Mombasa have shown extraordinary skill and “a difference in caregiving.”