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Evaluation of RUFORUM online platforms

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In the recent past, a great number of online platforms have been introduced on the market showing different characteristics and services. A series of features should be taken into account when one evaluates online platforms, starting from their functionality and usability in the context of the human, social and cultural organization within which it is to be used. The analysis of the features of a system is not sufficient. It is important to understand how they are integrated to facilitate the online platform functionality and what principles are applied to guide the way a system is used. Different online platforms have been developed to help RUFORUM to execute its objectives. Some of the platforms developed include online African Agricultural Higher Education Capacities Indicator Platform (HEACI), RUFORUM Information Management Systems (RIMS), Impact Platform, the RUFORUM blog, knowledge repository, websites and social media platforms, all which contribute towards RUFORUM’s vision. This paper evaluates RUFORUM online platforms in terms of the accessibility, usability, information security, report submission, policy, visibility/ dissemination, schedule management, participant management and connection with social networks.

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Health

Poorly implemented COVID-19 incentives eroded health workers’ motivation in Africa – Study

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Staff from IDI and the Ministry of Health engage in Personal Protective Equipment demonstrations after a two-day progam to spearhead the rollout of COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) guidelines on 27th April 2020 at the IDI-McKinnell Knowledge Center, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.

By Okeya John & Davidson Ndyabahika

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across Africa, it brought with it a wave of unprecedented challenges, impacting economies, social dynamics, and political structures. National healthcare systems were particularly strained, prompting governments to implement various strategies to combat the virus and its repercussions. Among these measures were the introduction of incentives, both financial and non-financial, aimed at boosting the morale of health workers and bolstering the capacity of healthcare systems to respond to health emergencies.

Due to COVID-19’s increased risks and demand on healthcare workers working in already overburdened health systems, incentive packages must be strengthened. Researchers conducted a multi-country qualitative study in DRC, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gates Ventures/Exemplars in Global Health. The study examined pandemic-related workplace incentives. In 60 virtual interviews via phone and Zoom, ministry officials, policymakers, and health care providers provided important viewpoints.

Entitled “Health Workforce Incentives and Dis-Incentives During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Experiences from Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda,” the research conducted by healthcare experts delved into the realm of incentive mechanisms, their allocation, and the inadvertent dis-incentives experienced by the health workforce amidst the pandemic response efforts.

The researchers were from Makerere University School of Public Health (Uganda), University of Kinshasa (DRC), University of Ibadan (Nigeria) and University of Dakar (Senegal). The research team comprised Suzanne Kiwanuka, Ziyada Babirye, Steven Kabwama, Andrew Tusubira, Susan Kizito, Rawlance Ndejjo, Marc Bosonkie, Landry Egbende, Berthold Bondo, Mala Ali Mapatano, Ibrahima Seck, Oumar Bassoum, Mamadou Leye, Issakha Diallo, Olufunmilayo Fawole, Segun Bello, Mobolaji Salawu, Eniola Bamgboye, Magbagbeola David Dairo, Ayo Steven Adebowale, Rotimi Afolabi, and Rhoda Wanyenze,

In their work, the scientists authoritatively note that: “Health worker incentives during the COVID-19 response were mostly unplanned, predominantly non-financial, and invariably implemented. Across these countries, there were neither guiding frameworks nor standard pre-determined packages of financial and non-financial incentives for health workers during emergencies.”  

Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2019, “Africa already had weak health systems,” they note, citing that the pandemic exposed this challenge, increasing work overload for health workers, mental stress, infections and deaths, who in turn, needed incentives to adequately work to respond and deliver good health outcomes during the emergency.

However, due to the dire working conditions, the Word Health Organization (WHO) had warned that frontline healthcare workers were most at risk of acquiring the deadly COVID-19 virus. In their report, WHO highlighted that between January 2020 and May 2021 alone, over 80,000 to 180,000 health and care workers respectively, had died of COVID-19 globally, calling for urgent need to reverse the tide.

From this study, Senegal faces a doctor and nurse shortage with only 0.38 healthcare workers per 1,000 people, well below the WHO recommendation. By December 2021, Senegal had recorded 75,055 COVID-19 cases and 1,890 deaths, including five health workers. Similarly, Uganda, with approximately 2.58 healthcare workers per 1,000 people, reported 146,030 COVID-19 cases and 3,306 deaths, including 37 health workers.

The researchers also noted that the DRC had 1.05 healthcare workers per 1,000 people, with 79,632 cases and 1,225 deaths, including 35 health workers. Nigeria faced a similar challenge, with 2.0 healthcare workers per 1,000 people, 243,450 cases, and 3,031 deaths by December 2021, including seven health workers. These findings stressed the strain on Africa’s fragile healthcare systems in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These challenges and consequences resulted in health workers either absconding from duty or in extreme circumstances, resigning from the health profession and opting for alternative professions,” the researchers note in their review of the COVID-19 response in Africa. They state that elsewhere by this time, measures had already been mounted to motivate health workers, necessitating a similar response in the continent.

In the countries where the study was conducted, the strategies adopted by governments and development partners to counter declining health worker motivation included offering financial rewards like allowances and salary increments, and non-financial incentives like adequate provision of medicines and supplies, on the job trainings, medical care for health workers, social welfare including meals, transportation and housing, recognition, health insurance, psychosocial support and increased supervision.

The researchers found that the financial rewards were a big motivating factor for the health workers in these countries in sustaining the health systems and COVID-19 efforts, while the non-financial incentives also contributed to improved health worker determination.

The incentives, although a success, however in their strength lied the weaknesses. The multi-country study reveals that the incentives had the double effect of creating disincentives and demotivating healthcare workers. This was occasioned by the lack of personal protective equipment, transportation to health facilities during lockdown, long working hours, harassment by security forces and perceived unfairness in access and adequacy of the rewards.

The study got its findings from virtual key informant interviews with the staff at ministries of health, policy makers, and health workers. In the study report, health managers and workers in DRC, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda confirmed that health workers received monetary benefits as a means of motivation for their effort towards the continuity of health services.

In Senegal, incentives were reported to mostly be financial. However, in DRC, although the salaries of the health workers involved in COVID-19 testing were reported to be similar to all other staff in response committees like epidemiological surveillance, case management, and communication, the government moved to temporarily waiver taxes to bait the COVID-19 health workers during the pandemic.

“Since financial incentives were mostly administered in an ad-hoc manner, some health workers felt they were unfairly distributed and complained about the lack of transparency in the allocation of these incentives. In Nigeria, it was reported that payments did not meet the health worker expectations, while in Uganda, it was reported that allowances were given selectively to some health workers such as those involved in contact tracing, COVID 19 testing, and COVID 19 isolation units but not to others.” The study report reads in part.

Respondents also revealed that although allowances were availed, there was dissatisfaction caused by delays and non-payment. In Uganda for example, the recruitment of additional 700 staff on contract although initially perceived positively, their irregular dismissal following budget shortfalls created discontentment and immense pressure for the government.

Accordingly, the authors observe that the incentive packages in the four African countries were inconsistent, lacked transparency, adequacy, and equity. “Therefore, there is a need to develop guiding frameworks within which governments and partners can deliver incentives and reduce dis-incentives for the health workforce during emergencies.”

The study suggests that during health emergencies like COVID-19, increased risks and workloads should mandate the provision of safety gear and adequate supplies. However, the researchers caution that both financial and non-financial incentives can have unintended consequences if perceived as unfair in their implementation.

They also call for incentives to be pre-determined, equitable and transparently provided during health emergencies ‘because arbitrarily applied financial and non-financial incentives become dis-incentives’, while still holding that the financial incentives are only useful in as far as they are administered together with non-financial incentives such as supportive and well-resourced work environments.

“Governments need to develop guidelines on incentives during health emergencies with careful consideration of mitigating potential dis-incentives. The harmonization of roles across state and non-state sector players in incentivizing the health personnel during health emergencies is paramount.” The study affirms.

Find the detailed scientific study here.

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Education

Vice Chancellor Meets Delegates from German Adult Education Association

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The Acting Vice Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Umar Kakumba has welcomed a delegation from the German Adult Education Association (DVV International) led by the Board Chair Hon. Martin Rabanus. The delegation was in the country to assess the impact of their partnership with Makerere University and the community.

DVV International and Makerere University, Department of Adult and Community Education have been partners since 1986.

The support has been in the areas of teaching and learning. DVV International supported the development and launch of the Master of Adult and Community Education (MACE) in 2007. Makerere University has since graduated many who now work as lecturers in Higher Institutions of Learning, programme managers, development workers, adult education trainers and so on. Before then, DVV International was supporting undergraduate students of the Bachelor of Adult and Community Education (BACE) with financial support towards internships and practical training during the Recess term of Year 2.

Speaking in his office on April 15, 2024, Assoc. Prof. Kakumba appreciated the Germany government for the support over the years. Saying through this support Makerere has continued to foster adult education by settling up Adult Education centres in Lira and Mbale for this purpose.

Hon. Martin Rabanus (L) receive souvenirs from Assoc. Prof. Kakumba

DVV International has over time supported staff in the area of research and publications. Some of the beneficiaries include Dr. Stella Achen, Dr. Twine Banakuka, among others. In early 1990s the organization helped to renovate the building housing adult and community education. The organization has also previously supported staff to acquire Masters and PhDs.

Prof. Kakumba appealed to Hon. Martin Rabanus to consider renewing the MoU between the two institutions in an effort to continue training adult educators.

Hon. Martin Rabanus applauded Makerere University for the achievements obtained so far and the contribution the partnership has enabled. “We are happy that we were able to provide adults an opportunity for them to get a certificate and improve their lives,” he said. “Thank you for the corporation for the last 40 years.”

Present in the meeting were the Principal of College of Education and External Studies(CEES), Prof. Anthony Mugagga, the Dean of the School of Distance and Lifelong Learning, Dr. Harriet Nabushawo and Dr. Stella Achen – Head of Department, Adult and Community Education.

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Research

Call For Applications: CARTA PhD Fellowships 2025

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CALL FOR APPLICATIONS: CARTA PhD Fellowships 2025. Application deadline: 15th April 2024.

The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) is pleased to invite suitable applications for its prestigious PhD Fellowships for the year 2025. CARTA is a collaborative initiative involving eight African universities, four African research institutes, and eight non-African partners. Our mission is to bolster the capacity of African institutions to conduct globally competitive research, with a particular focus on addressing health and development challenges in the region.

About the CARTA PhD Fellowship

As part of its innovations, CARTA offers a collaborative doctoral training program in public and population health. This program has been developed in response to the great challenges faced by Africa’s institutions of higher education in addressing the training and retention of the next generation of academics in the region. Specifically, CARTA seeks to fund candidates who will be future leaders in their institutions. That is, young, capable, and committed individuals who, in time, will ensure that their universities will be the institutions of choice for future generations of academics and university administrators wishing to make a positive impact on public and population health in Africa.

The multi-disciplinary CARTA PhD fellowship is open to staff members of participating institutions who are interested in conducting their PhD research on topics relevant to the broad fields of public and population health. We welcome applications from any discipline, such as public health, demography, anthropology, communication, and economics, among others, as long as the research question aims to contribute to public and population health issues in Africa. CARTA is committed to gender equity in access to the training programs and governance structure and implements a series of interventions to support the progress of women in academia (see CARTA’s gender position). Women are therefore particularly encouraged to apply. 

Successful applicants will attend CARTA’s innovative series of Joint Advanced Seminars (JASES) for cohorts of doctoral students admitted and registered in the participating African universities. Both the development and delivery of these courses are jointly led by regional and international experts. The seminars include didactic sessions, discussions, demonstrations, and practice labs.

Eligibility

  • A Master’s degree in a relevant field.
  • Prior admission into a PhD program is not required for application but awards are contingent on such admission being obtained at one of the participating African universities.
  • Applicants for this program must be full-time teaching or research staff at one of the participating African institutions and should be committed to contributing towards building capacity at their institutions.
  • Applicant’s PhD research proposal must be related to public and population health.
  • Fellowships are only open to individuals who have not yet registered for a PhD or are in the very early stages (first year) of the PhD program and are yet to define their research proposal. Fellows seeking support to complete a PhD or secure an additional PhD are not eligible to apply.
  • Applicants must commit to participation in all four annual residential Joint Advanced Seminars (JASes), and to engage in inter-seminar activities designed to keep fellows actively engaged and in continual communication with peers and mentors.
  • Male applicants must be under the age of 40 years and female applicants under the age of 45 years.

Eligible African Institutions

  • Makerere University, Uganda
  • Moi University, Kenya
  • Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
  • University of Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, Malawi and Associates (through Kamuzu)
  • University of Nairobi, Kenya
  • University of Rwanda, Rwanda
  • University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa (please note that South Africans are not eligible)
  • Somali National University, Somalia (through collaboration with Makerere University)
  • African Population and Health Research Center, Kenya
  • Agincourt Health and Population Unit, South Africa
  • Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania

Application Procedure

  1. Contact the CARTA focal person at your institution to discuss your interest and obtain application materials.
  2. At this point, applicants are expected to submit their application forms and reference letters to the focal persons at partner institutions by April 15, 2024, WITH A COPY TO THE SECRETARIAT (carta@aphrc.org).
  3. CARTA partner institutions will nominate candidates who will be invited for the full application process. The institutional selection will take place between April 15 and May 15, 2024. Institutions must submit a completed University CARTA PhD Fellowships Applications Screening Form by May 15, 2025.
  4. Only those who are nominated by their institutions will be invited to submit a full application between June 1 and July 15, 2024

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