donderdag 18 november 2010

Maggie Makulu , the Evergreen Zambian Nurse

Ms Makulu “This is my beloved country where I was born and there could never be a better place than home with her other ICT health participants during a IICD supported Health workshop in Lusaka Ms Makulu with ZUNO colleagues during the health workshop

Times of Zambia 30th October 2010
By Darlington Mwendabai (

Maggie Makulu reflects on how she has managed to contain the wave of mass exodus by health personnel from Zambia to foreign lands. The health sector in most developing countries has suffered numerous setbacks due to brain drain and Zambia has not been spared although Government is making every effort to stop the trend as it was depleting human resource.

Qualified nurses are seeking job opportunities elsewhere all in the name of greener pastures, but one patriotic Luanshya nurse has defied all odds to make the pasture greener within as well as contribute to quality health care service delivery.

Ms Makulu who is self motivated has served Zambia as a nurse for the past 16 years and now she reflects on how she has managed to contain the wave of mass exodus by health personnel from Zambia to foreign lands in search of a better life style most of peers have done.

Ms Makulu could just be among a few dedicated health personnel who have resolved to remain in this country despite the unsatisfactory working conditions, low saleries and poor working conditions simply because she has a special calling and is committed and dedicated to what she is doing.

In the last decade, the country had been starved of professional health personnel who are being absorbed to provide clinic care in developed countries in Europe, America and Asia where better health care systems exist.

It is an open secret that most nurses who have left the country have done so because of low numerations, poor working conditions, absence of career development schemes. Simply put, lack of better health incentives in the sector.

Ms Makulu notes that better working conditions are important for motivating health workers if they have to perform their tasks diligently as they are vital workers responsible for saving human lives. She said this should be complimented by satisfactory working conditions comprising of clean and safe environment, innovative management, availability of medical equipment and supplies.

Ms Makulu who was born in the 1970s commenting on her present civil service salary which could be described as meager by certain critics, said what was important to her was not the money, but that she is driven by passion to serve Zambia in a special way and that is, nursing the sick in the community. Ms Makulu recounted that she tried to apply through many recruiting health agencies so that she could go and work abroad, but to no avail.

Now she feels that her nursing career is calling from God and that she is destined to work here in Zambia and nowhere else.

One might wonder who this nurse is who was spurned all overtures to secure a better paying job in developed countries, but has opted to serve Mother Zambia as a committed patriot. has refused to enjoy life in developed countries where milk and honey flows daily.

Well in the eyes of the ordinary person she is like any other mere citizen, but from her ordeal one could easily tell that she is geared to serve Mother Zambia alone due to her love for the country and passion to serve her people despite the prevailing circumstances.

Ms Makulu laughs at the thought harbored by some people that Zambia is not a land of milk and honey, she thinks it is. “This is my beloved country where I was born and there could never be a better place than home” she says.

Like many others, Maggie’s early childhood would be incomplete without explaining the hardships which she encountered considering that she was brought up by a single parent who is her mother since she was five years old. “I do not know up to now who my real father is, whether he is alive or not. I grew up in a family of four but now my sister and brother are dead we have just remained two of us with my brother,” she recalls. Her mother could not manage to look after her so she migrated to the tourist city Livingstone, where she was looked after by her uncle William Mbilitu who made sure that from 1978-1984 she did her primary school at Nansanga Primary School.

Thereafter, she did her secondary school at Linda secondary school from 1985-1989 however, all these years, she never dreamt of becoming a nurse instead all she desired was to be a tourist tour guard perhaps because she was influenced by life in the tourist capital city.

But the tide suddenly changed when Ms Makulu enrolled in the school of nursing in Livingstone from 1991 – 1993, then her dream as a tour guide would be aborted, instead a new era dawned of hope for her to look after the sick.

“I was happy when I completed my nursing course and was then posted to Copperbelt’s Arthur Davison Children’s hospital (ADH) in Ndola,” she says with a relief.

However, she was saddened at the loss of her mother who passed on upon completion of her nursing course, but she was lucky that her uncle Mr Mbilitu had to take over full responsibility as a parent.
Although this mum’s loss still lingers on in her thoughts, she was proud to mention that, she has “a heart for nursing” hence that did not her work in anyway in as far as caring for ailing children, who needed a tender nursing care was concerned.
“Despite the hardship I went through as child, I wanted a better future for the Zambia children hence I gave all my best to serve them and here I am doing the same thing,” she says. Ms Makulu despite working hard to nurse children with various afflictions and ailments at one point also needed a companion who could nurse and tender her as a wife, so she got married in 1998. She and her husband relocated to the mining town of Luanshya together, but has since continued rendering her noble nursing services unconstrained and she is also using her position in the nurses union to lobby improved conditions of service and salaries for nurses.

In 2004, she joined the then Zambia Nurses Association (ZNA) now Zambia Union of Nurses Organisation(ZUNO) and so she became Luanshya branch vice chairperson, but the Association had no teeth to bit since nurses were then not allowed to form a union in the health sector.

The transformation of ZNA to ZUNO 2007 saw Ms Makulu retain her previous position as vice branch person however she opted to stand amidst men at the provincial level for the position of vice secretary which was heavily contested but she managed to scoop it by a wide margin.

Ms Makulu said she does not regret working for 16 years serving under the Ministry of Health instead she was thankful to God that he has given her the chance to work in ZUNO as a union representative addressing the plight mainly of her colleagues and some positive changes have since taken place. ZUNO had since trained more nurses in the past three years in entrepreneurship to cushion negative impact of retirement after leaving employment. Members have also been exposed to leadership skills trainings. “Most importantly, we have been trained in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by Netherland’s Organization International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD),” she says. She says tertiary hospitals are not only few but far apart coupled with a chronic shortage of qualified staff, drugs and basic equipment, but she was quickly to mention that ICTs were bridging the gap as she and other nurses have to go to Ndola for certain medical consultations

Instead, ZUNO was addressing the shortage of brain drain in special way by ensuring that partners like IICD were training nurses and providing resources such as computers to them. ZUNO had since established ICTs resource centresat its head office in Lusaka, the Copperbelt and in Western Province where about 9000 nurses have now access to the internet and email facilities. “This had been one of greatest motivation. We have improved our health service delivery as a result of improving computer literacy to nurses however, we need more computers and better internet connectivity especially in rural areas,” she said.

Commenting on why women even after 46 years of Zambia’s independence are struggling to work together, Ms Makulu said it was sad most of the women seem to support men more as opposed to their own kind.

She advised young women to have goals in life adding that had she not had a goal as child, she could not have served the country in the manner she is currently doing.
As a member of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) she loves God and her role in the church as a girls brigade officer who in a near future contemplates to run her own nursing home.

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