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In Kony’s Shadows: Faith Atai Emerges School of Public Health’s Best Student

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By Davidson Ndyabahika & Brenda Namata

Despite her troubling background, Ms. Faith Atai, 33, has emerged as the overall best student for Makerere University School of Public Health’s Bachelors of Environmental Health Science.

Ms. Atai, will, during Makerere University‘s 71st graduation ceremony this year walk away with a First-Class Honors with a CGPA of 4.46. She becomes MakSPH best student, according to Ms. Gladys Khamili, the School of Public Health’s Registrar. This also makes her qualify for a Vice Chancellor’s list, of the best students in the University.

Born to Naume Ariimi and Ebwaat Jonathan, a firstborn and the only child from a father, she lost before birth.

Her mother, Ariimi, an enrolled nurse at Asamuk HCIII, in the Amuria district struggled to raise her single-handedly since her birth in November 1988.

“My mother being a single parent needed to fully work to provide for the family, I had to grow up with my grandmother Atai Faith Odongo, in Telamot village, Omugenya parish, Gweri Sub County in Soroti District,” she recounts.

Growing up in a rural setting, Atai engaged in several home chores but that did not disrupt her focus in School. She went to Jameler Primary School for her early education, until she sat her Primary Leaving Examination in 2001, at the age of 13. It was here that she became a Health Prefect.

“I would wake up as early as 4:00 AM to do home chores (wash utensils, sweep the compound and leave beans set on fire) and be at school 6:00 AM,” Atai recalls. 

She would later, in 2002, join Ngora High School in Kumi district for Secondary education, some 50kilometers from her home district.

In 2003, the LRA rebels entered Teso, in eastern Uganda, Atai was in Senior three, and learning processes in all schools in the region were suspended for over a month. During this period, Atai recalls she stayed with her grandmother but under tense moments.

“Our movements were restricted. You would hear the open fire in the neighborhood and that whole time we were confined at home; you would pray to be alive the next day. I remember hiding under the bed always. Amidst fire exchanges, I was still optimistic about School,” she says.

Upon returning to School, Atai concentrated and completed O’ Level, scoring 23 aggregates in 2005. With this performance, her dream of becoming a lawyer was in sight. However, in 2006 when she joined Nabumali High School for her Advanced Level of education she was inspired to offer Science subjects. Here, she took Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and Agriculture but she says School fees was a major hurdle that kept her in and out of school.

“The environment was not friendly after I switched from my former school. I faced a lot of challenges in accessing school fees. This affected me both emotionally and academically. Catching up with the rest of the students. Sometimes I would take two weeks at home as my mother looked for fees and I would only return to school whenever money would be available,” Atai recounts.

Adding that; “My A level results were very disappointing. I got 5points in BCG/A. I was taken up by sports also. I thought of repeating the class. However, one of my maternal uncles who happened to have done Environmental Health Science for a career advised me to enroll at Mbale School of Hygiene for the same course.”

She enrolled for a certificate course in Environmental Health Science at Mbale School of Hygiene in 2008 and completed it in 2010.  

Her desire and passion to challenge her background inspired her to enroll for a diploma. But her mother’s health had begun to deteriorate and this forced her to look for work.

At the time, Soroti Municipal Council had advertised for a health assistant job, which she applied for and got in 2013. But she wasn’t contented with a certificate alone.

“Conditions at work were not favorable. I asked if I could get a study leave as I continue to work. I had applied for a Diploma Course at Mbale School of Hygiene but I could not join because I was denied permission. But my immediate supervisor stepped in for me and would fill the gap when I enrolled the next year,” she says.

Despite the divided attention, Atai managed to enroll for her Diploma in 2014-2016 where she left a mark, as the best student.

Joining the School of Public Health at Makerere University

Atai Faith
Atai Faith, Bachelor of Bachelor of Environmental Health Science, MakSPH

As she pursued her diploma program, Abel Walekhwa, then a student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Science at Makerere School of Public Health visited Mbale School of Hygiene where he extended a career talk to the students. It is here that Ms. Atai inspired, felt she was closer to fulfilling her dream.

“I got his contact and further engaged him. He told me that I would still join Makerere University after my Diploma.  I goaled towards applying for the same program at MakSPH in 2017. Luckily, I was admitted on government sponsorship Diploma Entry,” says Atai.

According to Faith, having a social life does not deter a student from being an academic genius. In addition to reading books, Atai loved leadership and student politics as well as the church. She was a General Secretary to MUEHSA, an association that unites undergraduate students at the School of Public Health, Makerere University. She spearheaded discussion groups and indulged in all school projects. This was in addition to reading and holding discussions and consulting her lecturers.

Asked about what she felt when she was told she was the best student, Atai said it was an honorable thing to find she had topped the class.

“When I received a phone call about this, I cried with tears of joy, prayed, and thanked God for the journey this far. My mother was equally overwhelmed with joy,” Atai says.

COVID-19 and Studies

Since March 2020, schools and education institutions in Uganda were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of closure, Atai and her colleagues were anticipating completing their course on time.

One would have equally thought that this abrupt closure would affect her performance in the final semester examinations. “I didn’t abandon the need to keep in the books as I read, researched in hope of resumption soon,” she says.

The lockdown set in when she had conceived and her expected date of delivery was 15th October 2020, a time School was to resume for final students.

“It was hard for me as I had to do zoom lectures that were ineffective, approached exams and yet a first-time mother with a newly born baby. I had thoughts of a dead year however resolved to carry my 1week and 3days old baby to Kampala to finish my studies,” she recalls.

A first-class honors & What It takes

Faith says a first-class degree is attainable if, as a student, one knows what they want. She adds that it takes being committed, time management, and the right attitude.

“Good grades are attainable. As a student, there are a few values that you should work on; self-esteem, commitment, time management, and teamwork. I want to especially thank my classmates for their moral support, encouragement, and contribution to my success in this program,” Atai says.

Atai has also hailed the MakSPH administration for supporting her through her studies.

I thank the selfless and committed team at School. Thank you for putting everything in place for a convenient learning environment. The lecturers have been so supportive to me and my classmates. Am grateful for the mentorship I have received especially from the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health,” she says.

The Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA) reigned in Uganda between 1987 and 2006, spreading terror through the country’s northern-most region.

The group, now believed to operate in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, pursued its vision of a new state based on his interpretation of the Ten Commandments combined with local Acholi traditions.

Although it is not known how many people were mutilated by the guerrilla group, but at least 20,000 children were abducted and more than 1.9 million people forced to leave their homes. Atai could have fallen into the LRA trap at a tender age she recounts, but she survived.

Article originally published on MakSPH

Health

MU-JHU Position: Training & Development Coordinator

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Participants in the two-day MU-JHU hybrid meeting discuss the upcoming IMPOWER-022 study, the HPTN 084 DSMB results and the changing landscape of HIV Prevention studies in Uganda, April 2021.

The Makerere University-Johns Hopkins (MU-JHU) Research Collaboration – MU-JHU CARE LTD, a Kampala – based equal opportunities Clinical Research and Service Delivery Organisation with more than 350 employees is seeking interested, committed and reliable professionals with the described qualifications to apply for the position of Training & Development Coordinator.

Training & Development Coordinator – 1 position Description and purpose:

The successful candidate has overall responsibility to plan and administer programs to ensure that employees have the skills and knowledge to compete effectively and meet the organization’s business objectives including direct training as well as support to content specialist trainers. The successful candidate will be responsible to liaise with middle management to identify training needs and support talent retention and development strategies with senior management.

Required qualifications and profile:

The successful candidate will be an experienced professional with hands on experience coordinating training and development programs in a large corporate setting, preferably in a similar health and/or research environment. The ideal candidate must possess a minimum of Bachelor’s degree in Education, Training, with a post graduate degree in HRM or a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management. A relevant Masters level degree is desirable. The candidate should have proven ability to complete the full training cycle (assess needs, plan, develop, coordinate, monitor and evaluate) and experience with e-learning platforms and direct adult training and train the trainer methods, including on-the-job coaching and mentorship programs. The ideal candidate must have a minimum of 3 years’ experience working as a HR practitioner. Experience working in a health related research organization will be an advantage. The candidate should be MS Office proficient in MS Office packages. The ideal candidate should possess advanced organizational skills with the ability to handle multiple assignments and strong written and oral communication skills as well as emotional intelligence.

The holder of this position will work under the supervision of the Human Resources Manager and will be responsible for the following duties:

1. Develop a robust training policy and related procedures for the organization

  • Conduct organization-wide training needs assessment and identify skills or knowledge gaps that need to be addressed
  • Mapping out training plans and schedules, designing and developing training programs (outsourced or in-house)
  •  Source for training opportunities to enhance staff performance including advanced training for individuals and participation in grant writing for training/capacity development grants
  •  Assess training effectiveness and determine the impact of training on employee skills and KPIs Maintain an updated training database
  •  Ensure planning, monitoring, and appraisal of employee work results by training managers to coach employees.

2.  Support the HR team carry out HR operational requirements.

Applications with complete C.Vs, including 3 referees and their full addresses or contact Tel No.’s, copies of academic certificates and testimonials, should be hand delivered to: The Human Resources Manager, through reception Room 10, located in MUJHU 1 Building or sent by email (application should not exceed 15MBs) to hroffice@mujhu.org – not later than 30th April, 2021 by 5:30p.m. Only short listed applicants will be contacted.

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World Health Day 2021 – Op-Ed by H.E. Veestraeten & Prof. Wanyenze

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The Dean, Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH)-Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze addresses participants at the EVAWG Bazaar on 6th December 2018, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) Innovation Lab, Plot 30, Upper Kololo Terrace, Kampala, Uganda

As we mark World Health Day 2021, the Ambassador of Belgium to Uganda, H.E. Rudi Veestraeten and the Dean, School of Public Health, Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze co-authored an Op-Ed in line with the theme; Health Equity, a fairer and healthier world.

“Health is critical and especially now, with COVID-19 so World Health Day should receive more attention” remarked Prof. Wanyenze.

Please click the link below to access the full Op-Ed

https://uganda.diplomatie.belgium.be/sites/default/files/content/download/files/world_health_day_2021_op-ed.pdf

The same has been published on Page 18 of the New Vision, Wednesday, April 7, 2021 under the Comments & Letters Section

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Mak Unveils C-19: COVID-19 Mobile Contact Tracing App

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Project Principal Investigator, MakSPH's Dr. Harriet Babikako (2nd R), the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health's Dr. Ezekiel Musasizi (1st R) and Dr. Ezekiel Mupere (1st L) and Mr. Haron Gichuhi (2nd L) after the application launch at Child and Family Foundation Uganda Offices, Kampala.

By Joseph Odoi

As government strives to reduce community spread of the novel coronavirus, Makerere University researchers have developed a mobile application that digitizes the investigation, case, and contact tracing for COVID-19 in communities.

With Funding from Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF) and Partnership from Child and Family Foundation Uganda and Ministry of Health, the application is designed to investigate case and contact tracing for COVID-19, timely reporting and decision making to improve the efficiency of COVID-19 response and capture community feedback.

While launching  the application under project titled ‘’C-19’’, Dr. Harriet Babikako  the Project lead  said her team was inspired by the need to  address the existing challenges of trekking long distances for hours to ascertain information in regards to suspected or even confirmed cases of COVID-19, delayed communication and  responses, loss of contact lists and transcription errors .

“Currently, Community surveillance teams have to trek distances for hours to go and find information from suspected or even confirmed cases. Therefore, challenges such as incomplete identification of contacts, delays in communication, and response, loss of contact lists, inadequate data collection, and transcription errors exist, making the system slow, and inefficient. Thus information exchange between involved parties is too slow and expensive because, by the time a response is generated, the disease is spreading. This means the spreading of COVID-19 is not solved efficiently” she explained in a zoom session on Tuesday 30th March 2021.

Dr. Harriet Babikako-the Project lead delivers her remarks at the Application launch.

As part of the features, the application has various COVID-19 self-assessment components on its Epi -COVID Tracer Dashboard. This enables the app user to undergo self-screening or screen others using different prompts.

The application also boasts of support services that include COVID-19 Laboratories and hospitals all authorized by Ministry of Health. One can consult Private Doctors and Counsellors on the App through WhatsApp or other call options.

In terms of reservation, the application system enables one to book for a COVID-19 test from the nearest authorized laboratories .This is done by filling a lab booking form which locates the test center near you.    Additionally, it also enables different user’s right from Community, VHTs District Task Force DTF and National Task Force NFT by filling the contact tracing form.

An interface of the C-19 Mobile Contact Tracing App

On the relevance of the app to School going students, Haron Gichuhi a health informant and Co-Investigator of the project; said this mobile application empowers health workers within schools to appropriately screen students and allows them to manage/refer probable cases of COVID-19.

“Now that schools are open, School nurses can use the application to carry out tests and refer students to nearest laboratories with in their proximity.

“The application also gives the students their COVID-19 status and advises them on preventive methods like self-isolation” noted Dr. Gichuhi of the ambitious innovation which took 6 months to create

On cost effectiveness, the researchers say the app addresses the concept of high costs to government. This is because the application is available to communities like market vendors, schools, individuals.

On uniqueness of the mobile innovation, the researchers cited decision making, quick scanning of information, case management and peer checking for other colleagues as special qualities ingrained in the application.

With this app, one can  book a COVID-19 test with MOH authorized Laboratories and hospitals on the application and also  consult a private doctor or a private counsellor. This can be done within any citizen’s comfort with just a click on their phone.

Mr. Ezekiel Musasizi from Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Makerere University, (Co-investigator) says the team is in the process of translating the app to different languages to cater for all classes of society

In her final remarks, Dr. Harriet Babikako thanked Ministry of Health, Partnership from Child and Family Foundation Uganda and the Government of Uganda efforts towards supporting research and innovation through Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF). The launch attracted virtual participants from academia, non-government organizations, students, development partners, the media and Ministry of Health.

MORE ABOUT PROJECT TEAM

The C-19 Project was implemented by researchers and innovators from Makerere University with funding from Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF).

The Project /innovation team includes; Dr. Harriet Babikako from Makerere University School of Public Health (Principal Investigator), Dr. Vincent Michael Kiberu (Co-Pi) and Dr. Ezekiel Mupere (Co-Pi) from Department of Pediatrics and Child Health and Mr. Haron Gichuhi (Co-PI and Health Informant).

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