The ministry of education and sports discontinued hundreds of nurse trainees who had illegally enrolled on different health courses.
Dr Safinah Musene, the Commissioner in charge of health training education at the ministry of education and sports, noted that majority of these learners had not met their minimum admission age of 18 years.
“We did a verification exercise and some of these issues are currently been handled,” Dr Musene says.
With the increasing number of young learners leaving ‘O’ level, the Ministry of Education and Sports recently cautioned against enrolling below 18-years of age into health training institutions.
The ministry emphasizes that beyond academic performance, under the laws of Uganda a health officer or trainee must be an adult, which means he or she must be at least 18 years and above.
Agnes Wadda, the public relations officer at Uganda Nurses and Midwives Examination Board-UNMEB, says that prior to the examination for the first semester, the department of health training carried out a verification exercise to root out those who don’t meet minimum requirements. Age being critical.
Wadda notes that those who don’t meet the requirement were ejected and the department passed over the rest to the examinations board so that they are issued with nursing identification numbers and cards that enable them to do the examination thereafter.
Several institutions are said to have been found with underage learner including; St. Francis school of health sciences, Mukono diocese school of nursing and midwifery, all situated in Mukono District.
At St. Francis, for instance, 50 out of the 500 learners admitted to the different certificate courses this year were found to be underage. Although administrators at St Francis denied our reporter audience, a source at the school volunteered information but preferred anonymity told our reporter.
“This problem has created chaos in school, with the ministry has been questioning them how underage learners ended up in the institution yet the admission requirements are very clear,” the source noted.
To understand how such learners, end up being admitted despite the known admission requirement, We spoke to Halima Mayanja Nanziri, the principal of Kibuli Muslim Hospital Health Training School.
Although Nanziri has not experience this problem in her institution, she explains that there is a possibility that majority of these learners could have lied their exact age during admission.
Nanzirialso addedthat there is a second group of learners whose age as captured on their UNEB pass lips is not corresponding with data on birth certificates. The principal narrated that she has ever been faced with this situation and learners are always advised to sort this mess by swearing an affidavit.
However, a source at St Francis also claimed there is a possibility that the institution knew the learners age but went ahead to enroll them.
“There is no way how one can admit learner without understanding whether they meet requirements. Some institution enrolled 17-year-old thinking that by the time of verification will be 18,” the source added.
William Kabalega, a parent whose child had been admitted at Mukono diocese, blames the mess to the school administrators. He says that his child has spent over five months at the institution but nothing of this nature had been raised yet on admission the school asked for students’ birth certificates.
The frustrated parent says that the school administrators informed him that since his child is soon making 18, can be enrolled in the second semester. However, to calm him down- and other parents- the school informed them that the learners will not pay tuition for one semester upon return.
At St Francis, the school has decided to keep the would be discontinued learners at school offering them inter examination.
“Administrators are trying to save their face. they have decided to keep the learners at school. The school will enroll them for UNMEB examinations in the next cycle and they have been assured that they will not be charged,” the source added.
In a recent interview, Rose Nassali, the chairperson of Principals of health Training Institutions in Uganda had told administrators to stop wasting learners time and always advise parents on the admission requirement
A remedy to those who want to join certificate programs, Nassali noted young students who want to pursue certificate courses should be advised to wait until when they reach the required age.
However, while waiting to come of age, students are advised to enroll to other educational programs given the fact that during enrollment the applicant must have been in school at least 3 years prior to their application.
Meanwhile, available information indicates that 20,4430 are eligible for the exams and started writing their first semester examinations Monday. These students are part of 53,169 learners who have been registered for the June examination series.
Nursing is not the only training field where this problem is being encountered. In other TVET programs such as art and design and mechanical engineering, some learners are able to get certificates before they turn 18 years.