By the SPHEIR team

18 December 2020 - 09:17

A group of students graduating from university, pictured with their Dean
Dr Derie Ereg, Dean of the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Hargeisa, Somaliland, with some young medical graduates. 

2020 was designated ‘Year of the nurse and midwife’ by the World Health Organization. As the year draws to a close, we look at how health educators from the UK’s National Health Service and UK universities are working with their counterparts in Somaliland to transform undergraduate education for doctors, nurses and midwives.

Somaliland’s health education system faces challenges that many countries will recognise... A lack of formal pedagogical training for lecturers, critical gaps in university curricula, and insufficient opportunities for students to develop their skills in clinical settings.

As a result, students often graduate without the vital knowledge, skills and practical experience they need to practise safe, patient-centred healthcare.

Prepared for Practice (PfP) seeks to address these challenges through an integrated approach to health education system reform. The project has three strategic aims: improving the quality of teaching, learning and assessment in medical, nursing and midwifery schools; strengthening the capacity of lecturers and management of medical, nursing and midwifery schools; and strengthening national governance and management of education for health professionals.

Part of the UK-aid funded SPHEIR programme, PfP is delivered through a partnership model which connects volunteer health workers and educators from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and UK universities with health schools in Somaliland to promote skills, knowledge exchange and mutual learning. The PfP partnership is led by King’s Global Health Partnerships, an initiative of King's College London (UK), working with Amoud University, Edna Adan University and Teaching Hospital, and University of Hargeisa from Somaliland, plus UK organisations MedicineAfrica and the Tropical Health and Education Trust.

Improving the quality of teaching, learning and assessment

Through PfP, UK health workers deliver weekly online tutorials at three of the country’s leading health schools – Hargeisa, Amoud and Edna Adan universities - to complement and address gaps in the curriculum. Online courses are delivered through MedicineAfrica, a digital educational platform, covering core subject areas in internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, radiology, mental health, communications skills, nursing and midwifery.

Hannah Burrows, PfP Programme Manager explains, “Since the project launched in 2017, PfP has delivered online distance education courses to over 700 medical, nursing and midwifery students and examined over 500 students. We have also supported partners to implement an evidence-based examination process that tests students’ clinical skills and behaviours, and overseen the conduct of written and practical exams, ensuring only those students who are ready enter the health system. Covid-19 has meant the partnership is unable to travel to Somaliland, yet the project has managed to continue delivery of many formerly face-to-face activities by utilising our online teaching and video conferencing platform in new and innovative ways.”

Strengthening the capacity of lecturers and managers

At the institutional level, PfP is building the capacity of higher education personnel. UK volunteers with expertise in educating health professionals design and deliver a one, two and three-year course in Health Professions Education, enabling lecturers to develop knowledge and skills in pedagogy, lesson planning and designing student assessments.
So far, PfP has trained over 100 academics on student-centred teaching, pedagogy, assessment and curriculum development. This has contributed to significant improvements in how medical, nursing and midwifery students are taught and assessed: 100% of lecturers participating in the project report making changes to the way they plan lessons, teach and assess students. Partner universities have started to take on the running of the Health Professions Education course in this last year of the PfP project, with both Amoud University and University of Hargeisa setting up Educational Development Centres within their institutions, and introducing completion of the certificate year as a mandatory requirement for teaching faculty.

Strengthening national governance and management of education for health professionals

At a national level, PfP has supported the Somaliland government in developing the country’s first national Medical Education Policy, which outlines how government, regulators, and universities can collaborate to produce a well-trained medical workforce. The partnership has also supported independent assessment of medical schools, ensuring institutions training health workers meet an internationally recognised standard for medical education.

Find out more

PfP recently took part in two SPHEIR webinars exploring online higher education.