“My name is Nicole Muyulu, I am a trained and working nurse at the Institute of Nursing Sciences, ISSI, the nursing school in Monkole, commonly known as ISSI-Monkole, in Kinshasa. How have we been affected by the current pandemic? At ISSI we currently have 31 employees and 144 students. When it was announced that schools and universities would close on 20 March, due to the state of health emergency, we understood what this could mean for all these people.
For ISSI employees, it is important to point out first of all that, as a father or mother with a regular salary, responsibilities are high because, in addition to their own children, they often also take on grandchildren and family members without stable employment. Therefore, the total closure of the institution can have a social impact that goes far beyond what can be imagined. Thus, we opted for reduced working hours, so that people could continue to be paid, albeit a little less than usual.
For the students it was absolutely necessary to avoid losing the year, because sending a child to school means many sacrifices for the families. The vast majority of ISSI students receive assistance in the form of scholarships to supplement their tuition fees. Despite this, many parents still find it difficult to pay. The year could not be interrupted completely because for some students, especially the finalists, staying longer than expected in their studies meant delaying the moment of entering professional life and thus delaying the moment of eventually taking the place of the parents to take care of the rest of the family. We therefore thought about how best to organize online courses, given the difficulties of internet connection, among other things, which are so frequent in our country.
I wanted to tell the story of one of our finalists who came from a province in eastern Congo to study at ISSI and return to work there after finishing her studies. This young girl had found a small job that allowed her to pay rent and eat. She has an ISSI scholarship and her studies are partly paid for by someone from her home province. When the pandemic situation arose, she could no longer continue working and therefore could not afford to pay rent and eat. Her friends agreed to offer her free accommodation and food. Since she may not be the only one in such a situation, this is all the more reason for the finalists to finish their trip as soon as possible. They have to do a clinical internship, which will be a bit special given the current conditions, but we are counting on the support of many people to get all the material they need to do it well.
2020 is the International Year of Nurses and Midwives. We also wanted to support the nurses who are at the forefront. Together with the National Order of Nurses of Congo, we are developing an online course to update nursing staff.
During the exchanges with ISSI graduates, we were moved to learn that many of them have offered to work in centres reserved for people affected by coronavirus. They were happy to be able to share their experiences and their lives during this unusual period.
In conclusion, I would say that COVID 19 is very real and very present in our country too, but that we will learn to live with it, just as we live with malaria and many other diseases. From time to time there are and there will be crises, but life continues and always takes over. What we want to transmit to our students and to all the nurses is that they must never abandon the sick, that the service they provide is indispensable for society”.
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