Between 2018 and 2021, hundreds of first-year students were compelled by the management of the Community Health Nursing Training College (CHNTC) in Navrongo, a town in Ghana’s Upper East Region, to pay Gh¢100 each for a home-visit bag as a requirement for their training.
As many as 685 students paid the fee, amounting to Gh¢68,500 ($5,898). But 631 had graduated by 2022 from the school without getting the bags.
The rest― who had not completed their studies in 2022― were afraid their stories would not be different.
The healthcare bags are recommended by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of Ghana and approved by the Ministry of Health (MoH) for students offering public health nursing programmes.
The bags contain medical supplies and are taken along by the students during home visits for healthcare delivery and health education purposes.
“The home visit is a key component of public health nursing programmes. There are some particular days when the students are supposed to move from house to house with the home-visit bags to assess the health conditions of people in the community.
“As they move from door to door with the bags, they will meet several cases. There are instances where they detect tuberculosis cases, leprosy, high blood pressure, and so on. The home-visit bag is very key,” a tutor at the college, Elijah Atiyire, told Media Without Borders in 2022.
“This special bag contains some items which may include the thermometer, the blood pressure apparatus, a scale for weighing pregnant women, a measuring tape and medicines for sick people they come across during the home visits.”
Atiyire and some other tutors blame the management’s failure to deliver the healthcare bags to the students on the immediate-past principal of the school, Alhaji Abdul Rafiu Agboola, who was transferred from the college months ago to the Community Health Nursing Training College in Winneba, Central Region.
“For the community health nurse, their major duty is to prevent diseases. While in school, the students are supposed to pay home visits with the home-visit bags. We, the tutors, do the demonstration for them in the classroom and, then, we take them to the field where we would meet actual clients or patients.
“They have to write practical examinations using the home-visit bags before they graduate. But since they never provided home-visit bags to the students, the students also didn’t buy any home-visit bags and because of that we didn’t even go for the home visits. That’s how poor the training has been,” said the school’s Quality Assurance Manager, Franklin Mustapha, in 2022.
“We had to borrow bags for practical examinations” ― Students
A number of old students told Media Without Borders they had to make do with either borrowed or improvised public health bags to take their final examinations.
“We paid for our bags but we did not get them. The fee was in our admission letters. The school did not provide any bag. We had to borrow bags from our colleagues outside our campus for the practical examinations,” said Bernard Azotiba, who graduated from the school in 2020.
“The whole batch, none of us had the bag. We were told we would be given the bags before the exam. When we asked for the bag, they asked us if we wanted to pass or we wanted the home-visit bags. We didn’t want to have any conflict with the management. We just had to let go,” Portia Azemba recalled.
“Some of us had to improvise, using ordinary bags that were smaller than the normal home-visit bags. We packed the ordinary bags with medical apparatuses which we bought ourselves. They were not ready to give us the bags. Maybe they squandered the money, we don’t know,” she added.
Students learn under pavilions despite paying development levy every year
Although the management collects a “development levy” of Gh¢150 from each student every year, majority of the students do not have decent classrooms. They are taking their lessons under pavilions erected in 2014.
The campus was thickly bushy when Media Without Borders visited the college in October, 2022. Solid waste from free-range cattle owned by the school’s principal at the time (Alhaji Abdul Rafiu Agboola) littered the college’s unpaved ground.
Heaps of damaged classroom furniture, chaotically turned upside down on the premises, were spotted on the premises at the time of the visit.
“I’m so much unhappy with the way things are going,” a family planning tutor at the school, Joseph Sobie Dery, told Media Without Borders during that visit. “Imagine teaching more than 300 students under a pavilion. The students at the back cannot hear you because of the nature of the environment. There is no public address system for you to use. You are using your normal voice.”
“Another thing is that it is difficult for tutors to display images on a screen during lessons because the pavilions being used as classrooms are not enclosed. Meanwhile, these students pay development fees every year.”
Some students who were approached on the campus at the time by Media Without Borders declined to comment publicly about their learning environment. They were afraid their comments might incur the wrath of some authorities. However, a number of old students shared their experiences.
“I remember we always had our books wet and our lessons suspended anytime it rained,” said Sheila Akurugu, who graduated from the college in 2020. “We couldn’t learn as it should be. We managed to learn and we managed to pass.”
On Sunday, May 7, 2023, Media Without Borders contacted the former principal by phone for answers on the home-visit bags and the state in which the college was while he was in charge as principal.
After the reasons for the call were mentioned to him, he said he was unable to talk because his location was not suitable for a telephone conversation at the time.
He promised to call back. But he did not. Media Without Borders placed a call to him twice on Thursday, May 11, 2023. He answered none. Minutes later, a message was sent to him via his WhatsApp lines.
The grey ticks on his WhatsApp lines turned blue afterwards, indicating that the message had been read. But he did not return the call. He did not reply the message, either, before press time.
Media Without Borders learns that the new principal, Alice Agana, is currently transforming the college even with less resources than her predecessor had.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has instituted a committee to investigate the immediate-past principal, following complaints lodged against his administration by some tutors at a news conference held months ago.
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org