Monday, 21 June 2010

Brlliant Progress Today

The Makeni Midwifery School was connected to the internet today. This is really good news as the students will be able to access information that will help their studies. Most of the students have never touched a computer before - but they are so keen to learn - it is a pleasure to teach them.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

My Teaching Experience - so far!

My teaching has now started as the students have all returned from their clinical placements. I have been left as the only teacher in the midwifery school as the other 2 onsite teachers have left me to it - for my first week.
I have a class of 73 student midwives and I thought I had one class (we had been introduced previously) of SECHN's (doing their midwifery module) - but no - I found out last Tuesday that I had 2 more groups of about 50 in each - making 4 groups in total.
The 2 groups that I had been teaching - I was working flat out without any break - we get 11.30 - 12.00 for lunch - but my lunch break turned into students who had not been taught shouting at me that it wasn't fair that I had not taught them and why had I favoured one group over another. Well I just had to divide my time into 4 groups being mindful that my committment (or so I thought) is to the student midwives.
My voice is hoarse and I have covered so much that sometimes I wonder what have I taught which group - I have a system now of who I have taught what to.
I understand the other teaching staff are returning next week. There was one visiting teacher who came for 2 periods - but I did not see her.
There is intermittent electricity from a generator which does not work effectivly because of a battery failure. The photocopier does not work - and they are awaiting a service engineer. I cannot print off some of the notes I have done for the students as one of the teachers has some part of the computer that liks the computer with the printer. There is only one printer that works - and that is not currently available due to this missing componant.
There is often no lighting for the students to take notes because the generator is not on. I cant do powerpoint presentations due to lack of electricity. Also to do this preparation - I am unable to do it at my home because I too have no electricity.
I feel frustrated as I could do and offer so much more to the students if only their facilities were improved. The students have IT classes - but they dont even have internet. The books are very small in number - and not all suitable for midwifery today.
The classrooms are so small even though the school is a new build - it makes it very difficult to break into small numbers to do group work.
But despite all this the students did some really good role play and I could see that they had learnt what we had been doing - antenatal care. How to give good care and poor care. It was quite a laugh with 150 SECHN's in the hall.
The students like to sing songs - so I do some and so do they. The students are getting the hand of 'The wheels on the bus go round and round' and 'If you are happy and you know it clap your hands'. I could not translate the songs they sing - but my name comes into the songs somewhere.
The students are just so keen to learn - and it is despirate to see the lack of resources. This country has a maternal death rate of 1 in 8 women and an infant mortality rate of 1 in 5 by the age of 5. Sierra Leone needs midwives and well trained at that.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Character Building

I was asked last Monday at short notice to attend the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Sierra Leone in Freetown some 135 km from Makeni where I am based. There was little time to try and arrange transport other than use public transport.
I was put into a taxi in Makeni by one of the midwifery school staff and he said a prayer as I drove off!!
The taxi had 4 in the back and I was made to sit in the front although I was happy to share with 3 others in the back. The journey takes about 3 hours to the outskirts of Freetown. The car was a right hand drive and in Sierra Leone they drive on the right - so it all felt a bit precarious.
I was instructed by the member of staff who put me into the taxi in Makeni to get out at a place just outside Freetown called Shell. This is an old relic - before the war - of a petrol station which still retains the name even thought there is no longer a petrol station.
I was put out of the taxi I soon learnt well before the Shell stop. I was also charged double the price I had negotiated before I got into the taxi - when I questioned this the driver said it was because I had a seat to myself. Well this is how it is.
I dont know why I got put out early either. I got into a poda poda which I hoped was going to Freetown, they are the cheapest form of transport with loads of others all crammed to the gunnels. The door I was squashed into was held shut by a coat hanger. I was terrified to move incase the door popped open and we all fell out under the pressure. Well that did'nt happen. By this time I was in the east end of Freetown which is absolutely packed - the traffic at a standstill and the markets and the people - you just cant move. The poda poda had a puncture and the tyre which looked bald to me was stuck in a pothole in the road.
By this time it was 11.30 and my appointment with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Sierra Leone was at 1.30pm. so I got out as the traffic was going nowhere and the flat needed attention. I did not know which direction to walk but knew my next stop was a place called PZ. I walked through the people, traffic, muck on the ground, markets, animals, noise and of course the heat - about 38-40 degs. I just kept asking people 'where I go PZ' eventually I got to PZ just a big central point with no signs or street names and I had not got a clue what direction to pick up a taxi to take me to my destination.
I asked a man and he very kindly found me a taxi on the right road that would take me to my destination. He was just such a poor man with odd shoes and very bad teeth. He had a black plastic bag with his things in - I gave him 10,000leones - he thought I was giving him the money to pay the taxi driver - I said no it is for you - his face just lit up - well if I made his day he certainly made mine.
I got to my destination on time but was not seen until several hours later!
I got a lift back to Makeni 2 days later.
The staff at the school were very pleased to see me again - it was like having a reception committee.
Throughout all of this trip I had no mobile phone. The generator at the school of midwifery had not been working on the Friday - and I lost all power on the Sunday before I went on this character building excercise!