The state minister for higher Education, Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo, has ordered the Uganda Nurses and Midwifery Council (UNMC) to address and initiate discussions regarding the low enrolment of male students to nursing and midwifery programmes.
Muyingo says one of the reasons could be the existing ban on males from undertaking midwifery-related programmes at diploma and certificate level unlike in the rest of East African countries.
“This is not fair at all. On a very serious note, the council should look into this matter and give us explanations,” Muyingo said.
“Research has shown that female midwives are getting good money. Why should women take all the money and my boys miss out in this noble field if they have the required skills?”
He argued that the idea that there are professions that men or women would be excluded from, based purely on their gender, is “unacceptable and contradicts the Ugandan Constitution.”
The minister made these remarks while releasing the 24th series of state final examinations conducted by the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Examinations Board (UNMEB) held yesterday (March 1) at the Office of the President conference hall.
Some 6,767 diploma and certificate candidates from 67 accredited nursing and midwifery training institutions sat for the examinations from November 6 to 10, 2017 compared to 5,500 candidates in November 2016.
Of the 6,767 candidates, 4,837 (71.4 per cent) were female and 1,930 (28.6 per cent) male. UNMEB executive secretary Helen Mukakarisa Kataratambi told The Observer that while the board has observed an increase in candidature over the last three years, male enrolment remains low.
“As UNMEB, we did not ban male students but this is something [the UNMC] inherited from the British who, then, never admitted male students for midwifery courses. Over time, we have noticed that males are really good midwives once given a chance by the nursing council,” Mukakarisa said.
She added that unless the minister pushes the UNMC to make reforms in midwifery, the board cannot do much to avert the trend. While male students at certificate and diploma levels are barred from pursuing midwifery, universities admit male students to study midwifery under comprehensive nursing.
“These are double standards. The rate at which women give birth is so high that we cannot only rely on only university graduates. Males at certificate and diploma [levels] can be trained and later upgrade as they help mothers during labour,” she said.
According to Muyingo, his interaction with women has shown that some are comfortable to have a man accompany them in the delivery room, a “solid reason” to enroll both male and female students on midwifery programmes.
UNMEB results indicate that of the 4,837 females that sat for last year’s examinations, 2,366 were pursuing certificate and diploma programmes in midwifery.
While presenting the results, Mukakarisa noted an improvement in 2017 performance both at certificate and diploma levels.
She attributed it to, among others, UNMEB’s deliberate effort to set test items that are more of applications required for common conditions in Uganda and increase in the number of qualified tutors in health institutions.
At certificate level, of the 5,007 candidates, 4,198 (83.8 per cent) passed the examinations. Some 62 candidates passed at distinction level, 2,929 (58.5%) at credit level, 1,207 (24.1%) at pass level while 796 were ungraded.
Out of the 1,760 diploma candidates, 45 (2.6%) passed at distinction, 1,398 (79.4%) credit and 190 (10.8%) at pass levels. Some 117 (6.6%) candidates were ungraded while 10 were not presented. Mukakarisa said no results were withheld. In 2016, results of 14 candidates from eight nursing schools were withheld due to failure to complete all academic and professional requirements.
Despite an increase in overall performance, UNMEB chairperson Hajjat Mariam Walusimbi said the trend of performance in the mental health nursing programme, where no candidate passed with distinction, is still inadequate.
UNMEB statistics also indicate that two nursing programmes: diploma in Peadiatric and Child Health Nursing and diploma in Public Health Nursing are not attractive to students.
“In a span of three years, the total number of candidates for the two programmes has been between zero and five students. The board recommends the ministry to investigate reasons why they are less-attractive and also establish the cost effectiveness of conducting these programmes,” Walusimbi said.
She applauded the best students and urged those who did not make it not to despair but report to school on time to ensure that they acquire the required training to pass the examinations.
Her remarks prompted Muyingo to direct the ministry’s BTVET department to carry out an investigation into why students shun the programmes.
“I have given you [BTVET] one month to carry out the research and report back to me so that I prepare a paper either for cabinet or top management for discussion. We cannot afford as a country to miss out on these programmes yet mental health cases are on the rise,” he said.