Established in 2017 under the Amref Health Africa umbrella, Amref International University (AMIU) continues to inspire a lasting change in health sciences education quarters.
The Kenyan-based university has been down-to-earth in delivering health-related courses in collaboration with Amref Health Africa and other health facilities countywide, imparting hands-on skills to students.
Five years on, the long academic steps have placed it in a brighter light.
Masses now appreciate the essence of health sciences education-related universities in Kenya and Africa in supplementing the efforts continually unleashed by the Ministry of Health and other healthcare providers.
To chart a wider path towards achieving its goals and override any doubts that it is the most timely institution Kenya requires to produce highly-equipped, leadership-minded graduates to the health sector, AMIU launched its five-year Strategic Plan 2022-2027 on November 25, 2022.
The pompous event, graced by students and dignitaries from all over the globe representing health organizations, different government ministries, county governments, donors and goodwill foundations, took place at the University’s grounds in Kajiado County, Kenya.
In the words of Dr. Charles Okehalam, Chair Board of Trustees AMIU, the launch is “A moment of reflecting on how far we have come, the challenges lying ahead.”
While giving his speech virtually, he said that the Strategic Plan launch is a critical yet rare occasion bringing all AMIU partners under the same roof.
“The decision by the International Board was the best for our institution,” he appreciated, reiterating that as the Board of Trustees, they will do everything required of them to ensure the university achieves its objectives.
AMIU is a haven of rigorous training in health sciences education, and according to Dr. Okehalam, “Though the change won’t come in a day, producing changers after us is the best choice we have.”
He further highlighted that ability to learn and adapt quickly to issues has been the board’s genius stroke.
“We need different partners to walk with us in this journey,” he urged.
Prof. Joachim Osur, the Vice Chancellor Amref International University, noted that with health sciences education and research courses being AMIU’s backbone, “We are building a university of Primary Healthcare.”
He journeyed every listening ear through the tenets of the five-year Strategic Plan, underlining that they want to train and graduate fit-for-purpose health leaders to appropriately respond to Africa’s health in context, embracing leadership skills.
For the better, “As people go through training, they should develop a mindset of changing the status quo,” he challenged the audience.
Reaching the unreached
With Africa having a double health burden and, as of 2019, spending 2.1 trillion USD annually on diseases, the continent remains far afield from achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 on Good Health and Well-being, set by the United Nations (UN) in 2015.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 2015 alone, Africa lost almost 630 million years of healthy life, instigated by diseases troubling the UN member states in Africa.
Sadly, the most affected and unbalanced countries have the least trained health workers in numbers and skills.
In that vein, Prof. Osur revealed that adhering to the Strategic Plan, “We are looking at effecting health sciences education in Africa.”
He was clear that the university would focus on training more personnel from marginalized groups and extend its wings to countries experiencing turbulent moments politically and health-wise.
Adopting technology and research
In the next five years, the university, which now has 1500 students, with almost 500 studying in-person and the rest online, AMIU aims at unleashing more virtual learning opportunities for students across Africa and beyond.
While gradually admitting more students for physical classes, the University head said they would establish more Computer Learning Centers to allow students studying online to access information seamlessly.
Through partnerships with health facilities across the country and outside, they will foster Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) and get the students attached to different hospitals to gain hands-on skills and become pragmatic.
AMIU will employ technology to run the institution, enabling online admissions, teaching and learning, and the university’s other requirements.
That will enhance diversity, equity and inclusion, overcoming distance barriers.
AMIU, remaining modern and health-sensitive, further plans to conduct context-based research for local and broad-based problems.
Local funding and capacity building will be the building blocks of the research.
The volumes of research findings will be translated into practical approaches to offload the disease burden bedevilling the continent’s population.
Appreciating the need to equip the staff, the VC explained that 30% of the proceeds from the research would capacity-build the university staff.
Within the next five years, the university’s budget will rise from USD 2 million to USD 7.8 million.
Half of the income is set to come from tuition fees, 40% from research and 10% will be the proceeds of consultancy services.
By 2027, a whopping 40% of AMIU students will be studying under some form of scholarship from the university and its partners.
This keeps in step with the institution’s desire to leave no one behind, including marginalized communities and troubled countries.
“We are Pan-African, motivated by the spirit of Ubuntu, leaving no one behind,” exclaimed Prof. Osur.
“We welcome you to partner with us in implementing this Strategic Plan to achieve a strong, evidence-driven primary healthcare for Africa,” he exhorted all hearts.
The host county governor, Mr. Ole Lenku, congratulated AMIU for living its dream.
“I am proud that as Kajiado County government, we took the right decision to sponsor students to study health sciences at AMIU,” he appreciated.
Cognizant that the health sector remains pot-holed, he cheered the university management that the work is cut out for them to achieve healthcare in Kenya and Africa.
He also thanked them for using the county’s health facilities to practically train their students, naming more at their disposal for such training.
“Kajiado County will walk with you and identify more opportunities for partnerships,” he promised.
Muthoni Kuria is the University Council Chair, AMIU.
She appreciated the mother organization, Amref Health Africa, for the sponsorship and unfaltering support they have offered to the daughter university, reminiscing that the past year has been very monumental, enabling them to achieve milestones through increasing student numbers and better infrastructure.
“We are not only developing skilled workers, but are also training agents of change,” she observed, conveying the belief that Africa needs such personnel.
In an earlier message, the Council Chair said, “This strategy is an important resource in helping AMIU’s leadership, faculty and staff, chart a safe, prosperous and impactful course over the coming years. The strategy defines the course that the University Council is committed to taking.”
Dr. Kigen Bartilol, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, underscored the need for quality health-science education training.
Aware of the trends in health, technology and diseases, he urged them to “…keep changing the curriculum to meet the trends in health.”
The five-year Strategic Plan is set to steer the university to a brighter world of possibilities in technology and innovation in the health sector, admitting students from all corners of the globe.
Patricia Vermeulen, the Chief Executive Officer of Amref Flying Doctors in the Netherlands, famed it as a super-ambitious launch owning all the potential to succeed.
“Everybody will get the opportunity to study in Amref International University, no matter the origin,” she revealed.
She further explained that they will do their best to see to it that AMIU succeeds.
The University Chancellor, Mr. Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana, was represented by Prof. Osur, the Vice Chancellor.
Mr. Mogae said that health workers should be trained to the attitude of being lifelong learners.
They would be rightly placed to tackle Africa’s health challenges, locally and continentally.
“Amref students have an opportunity to get involved in Amref health works to get ready for the task,” exclaimed the Chancellor.
He added that the Strategic Plan is a roadmap to guide AMIU to train students from vulnerable nations to become health workers, support them and release them to go back to treat and support their local communities.
According to the Chancellor, over 3000 students will be under some level of scholarship by the University and its partners within the next five years.
The input of the mother organization, Amref Health Africa, is the central section of the pie that remains to be appreciated.
That is why Dr. Githinji Gitahi, the Global Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) Amref Health Africa and the Treasurer, AMIU Board of Trustees, assured the University of more support.
Dr. Gitahi, a passionate advocate for pro-poor Universal Health Coverage, revealed that Amref Health Africa is now 65 years old and operating in 35 African countries, driven by an employee base of about 2300 staff.
“We are developing a workforce for the Mixed Health System,” he said, reiterating that Amref works under the Ministry of Health as a supplementary healthcare provider in Kenya.
Current healthcare trainees, undoubtedly, are the untold developing story of the future story on better health services locally and continent-wide, according to Dr. Gitahi.
Amref Flying Doctors, an absorbing body of some AMIU trainees, evacuated over 800 covid-19 patients into and outside Kenya and Africa, during the pandemic, according to him.
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It gave a chance to those who had none, reaching the vulnerable unreached.
The BoT Treasurer revealed that courtesy of the MacKenzie Scott Foundation, the board has secured a USD 23m grant, set to start and complete Phase I of the University infrastructure from early next year.
He championed for more partners to join hands with them because “If Africa is to achieve her Agenda 2063, we must build healthy populations through Primary Healthare.”