The Ministry of Health (MoH), in collaboration with the UK- based University of Dundee, has been giving distance education since 2003. Over 150 Eritrean students have received their Bachelor’s degree from this university. Many of these graduates were programmers from the MoH and professionals previously assigned in regional hospitals, the National referral hospital and the MoH head quarter.
In 2013, the Ministry asked for a Master’s program and the University of Dundee accepted the first cohort of 23 students after a thorough selection criteria set by both the Ministry and the university. The post graduate programs focus on Advance Nursing Practice and Global Health and Well-being. The program was launched in August and has been going on for over three and half years. The academic staff of Dundee University has been regularly visiting Eritrea and providing teaching and supervisory assistance for more than a week on a regular basis. They have made such visits more than seven times which resulted in the smooth running of the program.
Fifteen out of 23 have managed to complete their studies and graduated on the 17th of January while five are expected to complete their studies in the first half of the year. Four obtained Msc in Advanced Nursing Practice and 11 earned Msc in Global Health and Well-being. The graduation ceremony was held in the presence of Minsters, higher PFDJ officials, zonal administrators, military commanders, diplomats, UN representatives, faculty and guests from Dundee University, MoH officials and staff, parents and the first cohort graduates.
Minister Amina Nurhussien said the government provided free educational opportunities for those who will continue their education while working in government institutions.
The Human Resource Development of the Ministry has been working on many strategic directions to develop its human resource capacity, said Dr. Brhane Debru, Acting Director General of Policy, Planning and HRD Department. The strategic directions are categorized into four,the first focuses on training citizens to the highest level in country’s health training institutions The second aims to provide online distance learning towards Master’s in Public Health. The third refers to another form of distance education of Bsc and Msc. The fourth strategy relates to sending students overseas for post-graduate studies and specializations in Laboratory, Entomology, Mental Health as well as Specialization for MDs, special technology training of CT and MRI, biomedical engineering and training in oncology.
The Dean of the School of Nursing at Dundee University, Professor Lynn Kilbride, said at the graduation ceremony that Postgraduate study is demanding personally and professionally for all students and commended the students who have made it to the end. Professor Lynn further said that over the three and half years of studies he has seen how these cohort of students developed the attributes of research skills, critical thinking, and evaluation of evidence and advanced understanding of their specializations. At the symposium held on 16th January, high quality research studies undertaken for the dissertation were presented by the students. The professor believes that these projects will help the graduates make a difference and improve health outcomes of individuals and communities with the wide range of topics they have covered.
As a notable achiever of the Health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Eritrea is seriously engaged to repeat such a success in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said the Minister of Health. The Ministry is also working hard towards achieving Universal Health Coverage of quality health services to the whole population. The graduates’ representative said that the large cohort of Msc graduates have acquired knowledge and skills in scientific paper writing, critical thinking, reflection on practices, evidence-based practice and research methodology. This will support the Ministry of Health in documenting best practices, developing guidelines, policies and training of health workers to improve the health care system in Eritrea. The graduating cohort recommend the Ministry to continue such programs in different areas of specialization in the future.
In the research symposium held on the previous day various health topics were raised and discussed. Some of the topics presented were risk factors to road traffic accidents in Eritrea, exploratory qualitative study on low utilization of pregnant mothers delivering in Keren health institutions as well as knowledge, attitude and practice of food handlers towards food hygiene and safety in grand hotels of Asmara. Other papers include assessment on the efficacy of patients of type 2 diabetes, exploring the experience of parents with children of intellectual disabilities in Eritrea and also a presentation of the ways to identify the major risk factors associated with the levels of depression among new adult outpatients at the Psychiatric Hospital in Asmara.
Finally, the first Msc graduates pledged to support the Ministry of Health with great effort to improve the health care system in the country to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.