The need for more healthcare workers is worldwide but often times students face costly challenges in order to pursue their dreams. Meet Hawa, a nursing student in Kenya, who’s pursuit of her career as a health worker is a story many Kenyan students share.
Hawa Y. was born 24 years ago to a family of six in the arid plains of the Garba Tulla District in eastern Kenya. Like many Kenyan women in remote provinces, Hawa’s mother was uneducated and illiterate. Seeing the struggles her mother faced only motivated Hawa to work harder in school and further her education. But motivation is often not enough to overcome some of the many hurdles students in Kenya face. Once Hawa completed her primary education in 2002, she was unable to move on to high school due to lack of funding for school fees. Though this delayed her progress, Hawa persevered and was able to procure funding from a ministry group to attend high school.
In 2005, Hawa’s father suffered from an infection in his lungs. After several months in a public hospital, his condition worsened and he was transferred to a public referral hospital. It was then that her calling to be a health worker began. She witnessed the efforts, the care and concern of the health workers attending to him, and later was encouraged by her father to study medicine, particularly nursing, because, in his words, “nurses are always within a patient’s reach”.
Hawa refocused her efforts, and worked hard to graduate high school with high marks. She was admitted to a public university; however, once again, she was unable to enroll because of a lack of funding. Undeterred, Hawa accepted a job as a cleaner at a pharmacy, which only encourage her dream to practice medicine. “I would listen to him prescribing medication to patients with envy. I wished I was a health worker like him. I prayed to be one someday,” Hawa recalls. In 2011, Hawa was admitted to the Kenya Medical Training College, Machakos. Her mother and several members of the community raised money so that Hawa could attend school. It has been a long, difficult journey to Machakos Medical Training College, but she is now in her second year studying to be a nurse.
Hawa’s struggle to find funding for her academic pursuits is a common one for youth in Kenya. Some of the largest expenses students pursuing a career in health care face are often tuition and living expenses. Sometimes, if they raise the money for tuition like Hawa’s community did for her, the students are then unable to pay rent to live close to school or afford the transportation to get there. Or, that funding runs out, and the student is forced to leave school. The Afya Elimu Fund aims to alleviate this problem by providing loans to students like Hawa, who pursue an education in health care.
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