Kenya has an acute health worker shortage that seriously undermines the country’s ability to achieve universal health coverage. The health worker to population ratio stands at 1.54 to 1,000 against World Health Organization (WHO) threshold of 2.3 to 1,000.
Hence, the need to accelerate the production of health workers graduating and entering the workforce is critical. Unfortunately, for a country where 42% of its population of 44 million, live below the poverty line, college education is a luxury.
The average training fees per year in a medical training college is KES 122,500 (USD 1225) including upkeep which is way beyond the reach of most Kenyans like Beatrice Mudhai.
The youngest child in a family of 10, family income was stretched relegating Beatrice to a three year wait before joining college, during which she conceived her first child. “It was one of the most difficult times in my life, I was going to be a young mother and not ready to marry the father of my child” she says. “I had to fend for my sister and myself by selling at the market” she continues, life was tough but Beatrice’s dreams were larger.
Determined to further her education, in March 2011, she left her young baby in her mother’s care and enrolled at Mukumu School of Nursing, Kakamega to pursue her dream. A diploma in nursing. During the course of her program (2011 – 2015) Beatrice struggled to pay her fees being in and out of college taking on odd jobs to make ends meet. Despite her hard work, her hopes to complete her studies were dashed in 2015 as she approached her final semester with no fees. Having depleted her family’s resources Beatrice despaired.
Then on an ordinary afternoon, Beatrice was summoned to the college lab where she first heard of the Afya Elimu Fund. Her lecturer described the Afya Elimu Fund (AEF) as an innovative loan product that provides affordable loans to needy students pursuing mid-level medical training and encouraged them to apply.
“I followed the presentation half-heartedly, but applied nonetheless” she admits.
Two months later, Beatrice received a loan of KES 55,000 (USD 550). The highest in her batch enabling her to complete her studies and graduate in December 2016.
Like Beatrice, many ‘would be’ health workers drop out, defer their training due to lack of fees. This reduces the number of skilled health workers graduating and entering the job market impeding progress towards realizing improved health outcomes in HIV; reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) and malaria as per the Ministry of Health (MOH) Kenya Health Sector Human Resource Strategy (2014 – 2018) and PEPFAR 3.0 Human Resources for Health Strategy.
The AEF loan is easily accessible and affordable charging a 4% interest rate. It also offers flexible repayment options through regular check off and lump sum payment through varied payment channels.
Established in 2013, AEF is a public private partnership (PPP) between IntraHealth International Inc. through USAID Human Resources for Health (HRH) Kenya Mechanism, the Ministry of Education through the Higher Education Loans Board, Ministry of Health and the private sector. It is managed as a revolving loan mechanism and has supported over 9,000 students to date.
Beatrice works at St. Monica Mission Hospital, Kisumu in the Comprehensive Care Department. She started repaying her loan two months after graduation and intends to complete this year and pursue a degree in nursing.
“I want to clear my loan so I can give another student a chance to achieve their dream” says Beatrice.