This story is about Hauwa’s success on the Foundation Year Programme. As an 18 year old woman, Hauwa lives with her extended family of 18 people in the rural community of Tumfafi, Northern Nigeria.
In Tumfafi, there is just one health centre with only five staff to serve a population of 14,000. This is well under the ratio of health workers to population recommendation made by the World Health Organisation so there is a need to address the shortage of health workers, particularly female health workers in areas where social norms prescribe that women are restricted from seeing male health workers.
Hauwa left school aged fifteen with only three Senior Secondary Certificate Examination credits. This was not enough to meet the entry requirements to enrol in tertiary education to become a health worker. When the Women for Health programme team visited her community, she was encouraged to enrol in the Foundation Year Programme at the Health Training School. Hauwa’s credits made her eligible to take the Foundation Year Bridging Programme which enabled her to gain the two additional credits required to join the mainstream midwifery course.
However, Hauwa’s community tried to dissuade her father from allowing her to learn, believing her education would cause her to indulge in vices. “Initially the community members discouraged my father from allowing me to go with the fear that I might go wayward, but now they are all very supportive because instead they saw positive changes [in me]”, Hauwa said.
Once she joined the Foundation Year Programme, she could take the classes required to join the midwifery course. Hauwa has gained knowledge and skills about health and midwifery, but she has also developed greater learning and language skills. She initially experienced difficulty in her subjects because of her poor English skills, but with the support of her tutors and extra classes, she improved.
Now in her second year of the mainstream programme, Hauwa is excelling at clinical practice. She and her companions have noticed multiple changes in her, from her own personal hygiene and appearance to her composure and self-esteem. “I can speak in public now, express myself and I am very confident.”
During her holidays, she helps her community with health needs and consults on pregnancies, despite the fact she is not yet qualified as a skilled birth attendant. Her transformation is eroding resistance to girls’ education and engendering respect for her: the village head said “She is now a role model, young girls look up to her…The community is proud of her”, and Hauwa’s father “feel[s] proud when people come to me thanking me for my daughter’s assistance.”
When she finishes training, Hauwa will go back to her community to be employed as a health worker. Hauwa’s own aspirations are the driving force for the changes others see in her, the improvement in her interpersonal skills and the changes she is making in her own life such as her determination to pursue midwifery.
The Women for Health programme is addressing the chronic shortage of female health workers in Northern Nigeria. To find out more please visit: www.women4healthnigeria.org