After two years of missing in action due to the covid-19 pandemic, Makerere University School of Public Health - MakSPH has yet again graduated 22 students who have successfully undergone through the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) certificate course.
Housed under the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health the course sought to strengthen the capacity of practicing workers to successfully identify and manage WASH opportunities and problems.
In an effort to facilitate the students to acquire adequate knowledge, develop skills and attitudes through understanding and use of the six essential services of WASH, the School faculty undertook to train and equip students in an intense 8-week programme study that kicked off on 16th May to 8th July 2022 within which the students went for field attachment at various field sites between 6th June to 1st July 2022 for a hands-on experience.
Students were trained on how to monitor WASH status to identify and solve community environmental health problems in a bid to diagnose and investigate WASH problems and health hazards in the community.
Professor Rhoda Wanyenze, the Dean, MakSPH said it was great to have a set of students and professionals with diverse backgrounds to study the course. She stressed that Public Health is not about diseases but about keeping everyone healthy and avoiding getting diseases.
“I am very excited that there are engineers in this Public Health program. We need to have more engineers, lawyers, social scientists, economists, journalists, and several other professions to be able to advance public health causes. I hope that beyond you coming to learn, we have also learnt from you. We do appreciate you for taking interest and for joining us to do this course and we look forward to continue working with you,” Prof. Wanyenze said.
She congratulated the students and urged them to share feedback on the course with the school for improvement. “On behalf of the School, I wish to welcome you and congratulate you and hope that your stay was worthwhile here at the School of Public Health.”
Speaking on behalf of the Department, Associate Professor John C. Ssempebwa, said he was confident that the graduates of this short course will be able to mobilize communities and various stakeholders to solve WASH problems.
He also congratulated the certificate graduates for having been committed to the course and finally graduating.
“From the way the certificates have been awarded, I think you all qualified with flying colors. Please when you go out there, work as our ambassadors to the people out there within the WASH sector so that we continue not only getting more students on this program but also impact the lives of people in the communities we work,” Dr. Ssempebwa said.
Dr. John Bosco Isunju, a Lecturer in the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health and one of the Course facilitators said he was delighted to see the graduation of the 7th cohort.
“We have been running for seven years now, and that brings a lot of experience, and equally generates a network of colleagues out there in the field to network with. Now that you have graduated, I beseech you to go and put these skills to use. Do not just sit on them. Go and make a difference at your work places, at your organizations that you work with, let them see that you actually do things differently now that you have been trained,” said Dr. Isunju.
Dr. Isunju equally urged the graduands to plan on coming back to MakSPH to pursue other courses citing that the School had the most marketable and affordable courses in the region.
On his part, Mr. Emmanuel Balinda the Co-Course Coordinator said he was privileged to have interfaced with such a focused and hardworking group.
“I am so happy we graduated the whole class of 2022. The course was really tight as we had a number of field visits, practical sessions, report writing, field/project work, presentations, and above all the final examination to conclude it all. All through this period, I observed the whole group moving together as a team, sharing knowledge and experiences during the discussions we had in a number of lectures,”
Balinda says through this training, the School of Public Health has not only built the expertise to find solutions to the WASH problems through peer learning but also developed a network of professional friends that will continue to support and advise each other where need be.
“We have trained WASH Ambassadors now placed in various areas and fields in the country and beyond. I believe they will work with the competencies developed in the WASH sector to develop tailor-made solutions to the various WASH problems in the different contexts of their work to make those communities and the world at large a better home for everyone,” said Balinda.
Mr. Amiri Bwambale, a Health Assistant at Kabarole District Local Government said he was privileged to attain this certificate from the best university in East and Central Africa. Bwambale recently graduated from Makerere University with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Sciences. He said that everybody should learn to have knowledge in WASH since it helps in further appreciating several public health concerns.
“I have been in the field of environmental health science since 2010, from certificate diploma and bachelor and now CWASH course. I joined this course immediately after completing my bachelor’s degree, and honestly, my expectations from the CWASH course were met,” said Bwambale.
Nonetheless having prior exposure to WASH in his career as an Environmental Health scientist, Bwambale says WASH to him remains dear to his heart. “I still thought it wise to have special direct knowledge on WASH alone. A lot of courses were covered during the course duration and I got to understand more about different sanitation approaches which sharpened my knowledge on community sanitation improvement.”
Ms. Christine Nabirye sought to gain insights on WASH in the Ugandan context and thought the course would offer her an opportunity. “The great selection of facilitators ranging from highly experienced academic staff to WASH experts that are involved in implementing WASH programs provided a valuable experience. As a student that is relatively new to WASH, I have benefited a lot from the course material and the opportunity to engage in a 4 weeklong field placement, supported by the school to experience WASH program implementation first-hand,” she says.
Adding that; “My experience with the course coupled with the people encountered throughout the course will play a key role in informing my Ph.D. research.”
Ms. Nabirye is a Social Scientist and a Ph.D. student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her research is focused on exploring hygiene interventions in Ugandan informal settlements.
Ms. Ritah Musiimenta, a social worker Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Kiryandongo refugee settlement camp says she got to know about the course from a supervisor and an alumnus of the course.
“The course was a very informative and educative one with specialists/experts in the WASH field that were very organized, selfless, and good mentors. This provided me with an opportunity to meet like-minded practitioners whose first-hand information and experience came in handy in the co-creation of the solutions to the WASH problems,” says Musiimenta.
She thanked the Course coordinators for the mentorship, and dedication towards her successful completion of the course.
“I would highly recommend the course for any professional with a passion for community development, especially those hoping to do improvement of the WASH facilities and change the community behaviours in regard to WASH for a huge impact on community development to be realized. ''There’s no wealth without Health'' thus for any community to develop, WASH interventions should be incorporated at all levels,” Ms. Ritah Musiimenta.
Mr. Issack Yusuf Issack an Environmental Health Safety and Security Officer, Coast region, Kenya said this Certificate in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (CWASH) has offered him an opportunity to have hands-on experiences in modules undertaken.
“I came across this course on the University’s website, where I really wanted to pursue it since I am a public health officer dealing with school health, health promotion, and water analysis. Currently, as an environmental health and safety officer in the food industry - it encourages me to do more analysis of the raw materials and water used at the plant. The course content and expectations were in line and met, this makes me an alumnus and an ambassador not only for CWASH but for the University at large,” said Issack.
“Attending and completing a course at Makerere University means so much to me, I will say thank you MakSPH for giving me the character I need to keep building, the brain I need to keep expanding, and the heart I need to keep loving. I will treasure these memories for the rest of my life,” Issack Yusuf explains.
Details about the course can be found here; https://sph.mak.ac.ug/academics/water-sanitation-and-hygiene-wash
By Davidson Ndyabahika