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Employ librarians in all public nursing schools

[By Tuesday Bwalya]

ZAMBIA is home to many nursing schools which provide training for registered or general nursing.

It is a good thing for the country to have many nursing schools because she needs more nurses and midwives to provide health care to our people in hospitals. The training of nurses and midwives in Zambia is done by the private sector, state and faith-based organisations. I wish to mention that nurses and midwives’ training is regulated and controlled by the General Nursing Council of Zambia (GNC) which is a statutory body, established under the nurses and midwives Act No. 55 of 1970. The Act was repealed and replaced with the Nurses and Midwives Act No. 31 of 1997. The Council accredits education providers and programmes of study for the nursing and midwifery professions.

I checked the GNC website to try and get the actual number of registered nursing and midwives’ schools in Zambia, but the website proved to be less informative; very little information was available. According to the Zambia Daily Mail (June, 21, 2017), sixty (60) nursing training schools were approved in 2017 by GNC. Of these, 29 were privately owned schools, 24 were state-owned, and seven were faith-based training schools.

The number is much higher than 60 now; more nursing schools have been established and accredited to the GNC since 2017. For instance, early this month, President Edgar Lungu opened another nursing school called St Joseph School of Nursing and Midwifery in Lumezi, Eastern Province. The school has been established by the Roman Catholic Church.

I have observed for many years now that many of the nursing schools, especially those run by the government, operate without qualified librarians. Libraries in most of the state-owned nursing schools are managed by unqualified personnel. I am not saying all the government-run nursing schools do not have trained personnel in librarianship. What I am saying is that more than 90 per cent of government-run schools of nursing do not have professional librarians to manage them.

I conducted a survey of 142 libraries in higher education institutions in 2018 in which 27 nursing schools participated. Out of 27 nursing schools surveyed, only 10 were found to have professional librarians in charge of the libraries. Another study by my students this year shows that many government-run nursing school libraries still remain manned by unqualified personnel. More private and faith-based nursing schools were found to have at least qualified personnel; someone with either a Certificate or Diploma in Library and Information Science. Others had degrees in Library and Information Science.

Surprisingly, many reputable government nursing schools were found to exist and run without professional librarians. It is shocking to know that for many years, a big number of our public nursing schools operate without qualified library personnel; they are manned by office orderlies and telephone operators. The personnel who manage libraries in these nursing schools are people with minimal level of education; grade nine or twelve. I cannot believe this, that even a nursing school in Mansa where the Minister of Health Chatalu Chilufya comes from, has been running without a professional librarian for over a decade now. This is totally absurd; it is retrogressive and an insult to the librarian profession in Zambia.

Does the government through the Ministry of Health think that it can provide quality nursing training without well-managed libraries? Does it mean that our government does not appreciate the role of a librarian in the training of nurses? Where is the GNC in this issue? The GNC needs to explain why for long it has been allowing government-owned nursing schools to run without librarians. Many privately and faith based nursing schools are compelled by GNC to employ qualified librarians before accreditation. But on the government-run nursing schools, GNC fails to act and the madness has continued.

Our local association for librarians called the Library and Information Association of Zambia seems to have done little to stop this madness. I know that LIAZ can claim to be handicapped because it has no legal mandate to compel all institutions to employ professional librarians to run libraries, but the association can lobby with the Ministry of Health to ensure all public nursing schools have qualified personnel in libraries.

I wish to appeal to the Ministry of Health to take a leaf from the Ministry of General Education which has employed professional librarians in all its colleges of education. There is need for the Ministry of Health to recruit librarians in all its nursing schools. If the ministry does not have a list of all schools of nursing under its supervision without librarians, I do have a list.

I wish to also tell the Ministry of Health that the country has a pool of qualified librarians who are just on streets looking for jobs; they will be glad to be employed. It is not normal to run any training school without qualified personnel to run its library. This madness should come to an end. When the Ministry of Health seeks to recruit Health workers, let it also prioritise the recruitment of librarians to manage government nursing schools which for many years have been managed by unqualified personnel.

The author is a lecturer at the University of Zambia, Department of Library and Information Science.

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