At 8.30 AM our excited group left the hotel to visit our next destination in the capital city Banjul: School of Midwifery and Nursing. At arrival we were greeted by the friendly faces of the principal and the vice principal of the biggest and oldest nursing school of Gambia. There are currently over 500 hundred students studying to become able health care providers in the college.
First we were led to a room where the principal gave us an extensive account of the hard and demanding educational road these diligent Gambians have to go through in order to be credited as professional nurses and midwifes. The path that they take feels surprisingly similar to the one that we are on. Everyone completes a three-year nursing program, after which midwifes still have an intensive 1,5-year special training ahead.
The classrooms were very simple: few chairs and tables and one chalkboard. Some fortunate rooms included projectors. These learning spaces were suffocatingly small and crowded, combined with the endemic heat and humidity of this tropic country. Despite the conditions the students welcomed us warm-heartedly which allowed us to exchange thought openly.
We asked the graduating students if they felt ready to work as licensed nurses. Some of them had a firm confidence but others were intimidated by the very real prospect of having to deal with up to 20 patients at a time. Their worries resembled our own. Many of them seemed hungry for moving abroad. We were told that working as a nurse in western countries is enticing because the stantard of living and pay are manifold compared to staying local.
The students were grateful that they get plenty of hands-on experience in their practical learning periods: even 2/3 of the whole curriculum is devoted to actual working in different wards, clinics and specialties. The time they spend sitting on the school benches is really theoretical, one might even say “old school”, as opposed to the new educational methods designed to activate students favoured in Finland .