Alimah Komuhangi Oleko is a results oriented Public Health Specialist with a background in Monitoring and Evaluation, and Orthopedic Medicine. She however has a special interest in Health Education and Research, specifically targeting adolescents and vulnerable populations.
‘’Because I love what I do, I have self-driven motivation to perform my duties.’’
Her passion for teaching and community engagement shows in the effort and time she has dedicated to community work in her role as a community outreach leader at Clarke International University ,where she develops and implements new methods of teaching to reflect changes in research, and engages in new curriculum development.
As a community engagement Coordinator, Alimah establishes collaborative links outside the University with Organizations interested in improving the health of the population through health education, health service delivery and research.
We had a chat with her on her role and passion as head of Community Outreach at a high institution of learning, and why outreaches are an integral part of the education system.
Why is it important for Clarke International University to have an outreach programme?
It is an integral part of the university’s vision and mission. An Outreach Programme is a one way to enable faculty, staff and students to collaborate with external organizations in mutually valuable partnerships that are grounded in scholarship and consistent with faculty role and mission of the University.
In addition, at Clarke International University, an outreach programme is an important and valued aspect of inspiring leadership and transforming communities. It enables CIU extend its generosity and spirit of voluntarism to communities and thereby making a difference in the health sector through health promotion, health education and research.
More to that, for faculty, an outreach programme deep-rooted in scholarship enhances teaching, research, creative work and service while addressing community issues. For students, an outreach programme links school teaching and learning to community responsibility and community wellbeing. For communities, partnering with CIU increases the capacity to address important public health issues. At its best, an outreach programme offers general learning and growth opportunities to faculty, students, staff and partnering communities. The reciprocal nature of an outreach programme enriches both CIU’s academic mission and the communities we serve. In this regard, CIU has a legacy in serving the community beyond campus through an outreach programme that allows knowledge exchange and promotion of common good.
What do your outreaches comprise of? How do you carry them out?
The Outreaches comprise of;
Community Needs Assessment: where staff and students go to a specified community and identify the strengths and resources available in that community, they then provide a framework for developing and identifying services and solutions for that community.
Health Education/Health Promotion: CIU staff and students provide information that enables communities to increase control over their health using different health promotion models. Emphasis is on communicable and Non communicable diseases including life style modifications.
Medical Camps: where students provide basic treatment and general checkup to create awareness of the health status of the community. Common services provided are maternal healthcare services, Nutritional services, diagnosis and treatment of common illness, cancer screening and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases including Hepatitis B and HIV/AID.
Community Research Projects: Students take educational trips to refugee settlements, industries and health settings to learn outside the classroom and thereafter, they are required to develop research projects and write reports.
Scientific Conferences: Faculty and students are facilitated to attend national and international meetings and learn about recent developments, present new data to each other and discuss critical public health issues.
Institutional Trainings: CIU offers trainings to several institutions that need to build capacity especially in areas of ethics in research, Institutional leadership, Quality Assurance, HIV/AIDS management, cyber security and Hepatitis B awareness among others.
If we are going to partner with any external organization to carry out outreaches, we conduct a meeting with the partner and define our goal and objectives to ensure they align with those of our partners. We identify the target population. Each party clearly sets its expectations and roles in the partnership. Then we sign a memorandum of understanding. We list a set of services to offer to the community and meet several groups of people (gate keepers) of those specific communities and local leaders to introduce us to the community members. Medical camps take place at community fields, at health facilities, church grounds, school grounds and markets places depending on the target group and the leading partner. The outreach services are provided closer to where people live and are voluntary.
What kind of communities do you work with and why do you choose those particular communities?
We work with remote/rural needy communities specifically targeting the most vulnerable groups like the elderly, disabled people, people living with HIV/AIDS, pregnant women and children from disadvantaged families; normally assessed by their nutritional status. These vulnerable groups have limited or no access to healthcare services and through outreach programmes healthcare services ae brought closer to them.
We also work with communities in refuge settlements and in the urban setting we work with groups of people living in slums and urban refugees due to their highly populated nature and other unique characteristics that promote rapid spread of infection among persons. We focus on access to safe water and proper community sanitation and hygiene. All these communities have made our outreach initiative successful due to their good social acceptance behavior.
Among the communities we have worked with include; Numuwongo, Kansanga, Nakawa and the districts of Mukono, Buikwe, Mbarara, Mitooma, Koboko, and Murchison falls national park (Bulisa District). The Refugee settlements include: Bidi bidi Refugee settlement and Nakivale Refugee settlement.
What do you love most about the whole outreach initiative?
I love the passion, dedication and energy displayed by the CIU team while offering healthcare services to the community. The high volunteerism spirit displayed by the CIU team is an indicator that it’s our responsibility to contribute to the general health of a population. The Community outreach initiative enables me to instruct, assist and serve. I am able to help and connect with members of the community. The other thing I love about the whole outreach initiative is observing CIU students apply what they have learned in the “real world”. On a professional level, I am able to network. It is always great to meet like-minded individuals who share your interests. In the future, these people become important contacts when looking out for other outreach projects.
Is there anything stressful about the process? Any challenges?
The competing demands in the community such as shelter, access to food and security hamper mobilization and demean the outreach initiatives. Our primary focus is to improve the health status of the population though a one-off visit to offer healthcare services to a community may not have real impact. Sustainability can only be possible with a strong commitment at both national and local levels.
What tips or advice would you give to someone doing community outreaches when it comes to handling different people and the whole process?
Any one doing community outreaches should select a team that is compassionate, patient and with strong dedicated leadership. It is very vital for the team to have very good community knowledge and rapport with the leadership coz they influence community mobilization and participation.
In addition, it is important to know members on the planning team and a specific group or community you are trying to reach. Understand the reasons for trying to reach out to this particular group, their needs and how you intend to logistically meet the needs. Clarify activities to perform during the outreach and ensure you have a sufficient budget, source of funding to facilitate the outreach and a list of suppliers. Identify and train the volunteers and agree on communication channels.
Always conduct a needs assessment at the initial stage: This helps in efficient allocation of resources and technical efficiency. Otherwise it can be embarrassing to provide services that are not required in a community.
Set goals in relation to the mission of your institution/ organization: It is best practice to always go into the community with goal that aligns with the mission of your Organization. This helps you to get adequate organizational support and also contribute to attainment of the organizational objectives.
Know all your key stakeholders: You should know all your key stakeholders and develop a clear strategy with roles and responsibilities of all key stakeholders emphasized. Always engage the key decision makers at the planning and design stage.
Understand your target audience: For a community outreach to be effective you need to know and understand your target audience. Appropriate messages, mechanisms for outreach, and other aspects of the outreach programme depend on the nature and level of understanding of the target audience. Therefore, it is important to be culturally sensitive and respective to the target audience.
Refine outreach activities, communicate and train the team: Outreach activities have to be tailored to specific target audiences. Messages must be identified and specifically crafted to effectively convey the nature and importance of the information while simultaneously addressing the unique concerns of different stakeholder groups. All this should be communicated to the team in a timely manner and where necessary train the team.
Get feedback from the community: Getting feedback from the community enables the team to actively take out time to analyze positive criticism, and then thinking of the best possible solution to perform better. It provides and allows team members to see what each one can change to improve their focus and results.
Any future plans for community outreaches at CIU?
We plan to scale up medical camp initiatives to other communities. This is based on the demand from these communities. Individuals read about what we do and invite us to offer healthcare services. Rakai district is among the target communities for this year and we are also considering Bundibugyo and Kasese districts in the near future. We want to conduct an extensive community needs assessment in these communities so as to offer healthcare services tailored to their health needs.
Secondly, to establish and strengthen community disease surveillance systems. We intend to achieve this by training community health workers to build their capacity in identification, early detection and reporting of cases for specified health conditions to inform the health management information system.
Thirdly, we plan to conduct impact studies in the communities of Namuwongo, Kansanga and Mitooma where we have been carrying out annual medical camps. This will be done through focus group discussions/ round table discussions with key partners in these communities. In addition, creation of a peer review- scientific journal is ongoing to play a role in disseminating outreach findings. This will increase our involvement in influencing public policy.
Last but not least, we are engaged in continuous efforts to identify key stakeholder groups and find opportunities to enhance our community engagement.
What do you hope to teach/show/share with the world with this initiative?
I want the world to embrace community outreaches as a way of showing love, care and compassion to the vulnerable communities. Communities are very important and are at the center in healthcare programming at local, national and international level. If the health of a smaller community is jeopardized, we are likely to witness a lot of disease spread which is an indicator of a poor health care system in any country. I hope that with our outreach initiative, communities shall be able to understand how best to prevent and manage their health conditions and how to demand for healthcare service provision from concerned authorities. In addition, I hope that the initiative influences students at CIU to give back to the community and to maintain the same spirit even as alumni in order to enable our communities grow substantially.
Originally posted by Glim
The COVID 19 virus has inspired global panic. Hollywood movies have exploited the deep-seated fear we have that one day a disease could threaten humanity, and COVID-19 has the virulence to match some of these paranoid tales. People’s responses to this actual threat are based on paranoia than rational thought. There are young healthy people isolating themselves from everyone in fear of death. Stories of new deaths happening on the other side of the globe cause us to assume the grim reaper is outside our own doors.
What is the actual risk? And if we understand this, what is a reasonable and rational response as individuals, communities and as a nation?
It should be understood there are 2 things to consider. Current risk, and potential risk. At the time of writing this I have known people in self-imposed lockdown for weeks, but what is the actual risk they are hiding from? Let’s do some maths. There are currently around 780,000 known COVID19 cases worldwide. There are around 7,800,000,000 people worldwide. That’s only 0.01% of the world population known to have the disease, and in Uganda, that figure is almost certainly much lower than this.
Tragically we have seen 36,000 deaths from Coronavirus worldwide. It’s a big number, but a tiny percentage of the world’s population and the vast majority of these were old people - our demographic is of a very young population. And consider the number of deaths from much more common diseases, ones we are currently far more likely to encounter in Uganda. WHO reported an estimated 228 million cases, and 405,000 global deaths from malaria in 2018 alone, most of whom were children, most of which were in sub-Saharan Africa. Compare this to the 36,000 total deaths from Coronavirus worldwide.
So why the panic? Until Museveni effectively banned all vehicles on the road we were more likely to get run over or die in a car crash than contract the disease, let alone die from it. The concern is not the current threat, but the potential such a virulent disease may have to spread and for these numbers described to increase exponentially. A young person may have a negligible risk of becoming seriously ill from the disease, but passing it to a Jaja could be fatal. Moving between borders could take the disease into a new nation. It needs to be taken seriously.
In the UK the strategy is to slow the spread with lockdown measures such that deaths are minimized until a vaccine is found, and to reduce the strain on the health service so that it is not overwhelmed. The strategy makes sense in the UK. Coronavirus represents one of the most significant potential health threats the nation is currently facing.
But is Uganda correct in taking our cue from the west in this instance? Coronavirus is not the biggest threat facing our health service. Malaria, TB, HIV have not gone away. We have stopped people from being able to travel. What happens if a child gets sick with malaria today? Isn’t there a very real risk that the parents will not be able to get that child to treatment? There is a very real danger of these lockdown measures being a direct cause of death for a child in that situation. Add to this the huge impact on those already affected by poverty. How does a laborer who is paid daily feed his family if he is unable to get to work? In the UK no one will die from starvation due to their lockdown, and those who can’t work are still being guaranteed 80% of their income by the government. Clearly no such support is possible from the Ugandan government, and people do already die from poverty here. And God helps any mother who is expecting a new arrival soon.
The response considers the pandemic as the only factor to address and ignores all other current and potential threats. We need to be responsible as global citizens to control this disease. Sensible measures, of course, need to be taken; keep social distancing, stay home when you can, close places of worship, even schools, keep borders locked down, wash hands. But those measures that negatively impact our economy or access to health services, and which put the most vulnerable at the greatest risk are dangerous and should be reconsidered urgently.
The Senior Presidential advisor of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Mr Sam Mukasa Mulira urged universities to embrace the ICT system in order to improve their quality assurance in service delivery. He made the remark during the official opening of the Uganda Universities Quality Assurance Forum workshop (UUQA) held at Clarke International University in Kampala on Wednesday, 11th March 2020.
UUQAF is a forum for quality assurance officers from universities were they bring together their experiences in working out strategies on how best they can ensure quality assurance in higher institutions.
Mr Mulira said that it’s now the right time to see how ICT can be adopted and enhanced in functions of quality assurance in universities. “In order to improve our quality assurance on labour market we need to have adequate knowledge and skills and this can be attained by adopting ICT systems in all universities, “he said Mr Mulira also said that institutions are spending more money in reading and printing handouts but using ICT will save time and money because they will be using E- learning system . “ICT starts with infrastructure and you need to have standard structures in place where your going to install these systems because they need high level of safety ,”he said. Mr Mulira added that, with ICT system, even research becomes easy because teachers and student will be able to get more information from several scholars. “With ICT very thing is interconnected and this also helps in terms of communication because all device get connected and have access to information,” he said
Ms Florence Githinji the quality assurance officer from Clarke international University said that UUQAF aims at ensuring quality in all universities through service delivery “We encourage all Ugandans to check their quality assurance and how they treat their clients using the bench marking model to know what is happening in other universities,” she said Ms Githinji also revealed that more sensitisation is needed to improved quality assurance in higher institutions of learning and they are working together with National Council for Higher Education to put that in place. “Some of the staff find it hard to adopt the culture of quality assurance in teaching and learning however we are doing a lot of training to achieve this,” she said
Ms Rose Clarke Nanyonga the Vice chancellor Clarke International University said that UUQAF has been instrumental in supporting universities to establish quality assurance systems and process in mentoring faculties .
The theme was about how we can a foster inclusion of teaching faculty into the quality assurance process because leaders in higher institution knows that if you’re going to be effective, quality assurance matters”, ”she said Ms Nanyonga added that because several lecturers interact with students you have to make sure that teaching faculty are moving with quality assurance forward through curriculum and obstructions
BY: SHABIBAH NAKIRIGYA