Q: What are your responsibilities as the head of the School?
The Aga Khan School of Nursing and Midwifery has three branches — in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. I head the Kenyan campus. I am in charge of activities related to academics. I also take care of matters related to research and also focus on capacity building for faculty. As you are aware, Education Ministry wants all faculty to have PhDs, so a lot of our emphasis right now is ensuring that faculty get to fulfill this requirement.
Q: What could go wrong if you didn’t do your job well?
The quality of the programme would go down. And quality is our selling point as Aga Khan University. The other thing that would probably go wrong is failure to meet the accreditors’ expectations. As a school, we are governed by two accrediting bodies: the Commission of University Education and the Nursing Council of Kenya. For me to do my job well, we have to be in tandem with the expectations of those two regulatory bodies.
Q: What do your students learn?
Currently, we have two programmes. We have a specialist diploma in oncology (nursing) and we have an upgrading programme from registered nursing to a degree in nursing. The oncology programme is new and we will have the first graduates in January. The bachelor’s degree has been running for some time now.
In terms of what our nurses do, we find that most of our students come from the public sectors, a few others from private and others from faith-based organisations and one or two from the NGOs and other organisations. What we have often found is that once our graduates leave, they end up in key leadership positions or sometimes starting programmes and running innovative health products.
Q: There is the common notion that nursing is for those who couldn’t make it to medical school. How true is that?
I don’t think so. I think the two are different professions. If you are in a country where the two are developed properly, they each have their own body of knowledge. They each have their own different influences. I guess that misconception might be the reason why nursing is not valued as it should be in the country, because it is seen as something you take when you can’t achieve certain things.
However, if you look at public universities, for instance the University of Nairobi, you will find the nursing students and the medical students doing the first year together. This is because there are a lot of similarities; just that at the end of it, we are having two careers that focus on very different things.
Q: Personality-wise, are you a dog or a cat?
I’m not sure whether I’m either-or. I don’t think I take time to please people, honestly. I just get driven by different things. I think pleasing people never gets anybody anywhere. I focus too much on the tasks at hand. I take my work extremely seriously and I like to be organised.
Q: Which is the most memorable moment in your 15 years of work?
It is always a pleasure when we get graduates who go out there and do great things and they meet me on the streets and they say, “She was my teacher”.
Q: There is this perception that nursing is for the womenfolk. Do you think that will change?
I don’t know whether it will change or not. But I know globally the statistics bolster the perception. There are more women than men and I guess it has to do with the nature of the job. It requires a lot of compassion and women, by their nature, are more compassionate and nurturing.
Q: What makes a good nurse?
A good nurse is one who is a critical thinker; one who is aware that knowledge keeps evolving. It has to be someone who has got some lifelong learning skills because there is no end to learning. And, most importantly, you’ve got to be compassionate. You can’t really take care of people unless you have compassion.
Q: If you were to mention people who have got you this far, who would you mention?
My late mother, Lucy, and my dad of course. The other person would be my husband because he supported me especially when I went for my PhD. Then my PhD supervisor Catrin Evans for good advice.
Q: How many people do you lead? They should be 20 or thereabouts.
Q: How is it being a woman heading this department?
When you are a female and you are of a certain age, that in itself becomes a barrier. People take a while to take you seriously.
Q: You left Baraton University in 2002 and in 2004 you were doing your Master’s at the University of Nottingham in the UK. Four years later you were doing a PhD at the same UK university. How did that happen?
I think I was lucky because both my parents were university graduates. They understood what an academic journey means. And because they figured I really loved books and I really loved academia, they were able to give better guidance. For instance, after I did my bachelor’s, I didn’t take long to get into my Master’s, and then I didn’t take long to get into my PhD. So, I appear to have progressed a bit faster up the academic ladder on that basis.