Begining in August 2012, Students at Southern African Nazarene University (SANU) in Manzini, Swaziland can now complete a Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science Programme (BSMLSP), a degree program developed by the university in partnership with the TB and HIV Laboratory Technical Assistance Project, implemented by University Research Co., LLC (URC) through support from the US Centers for Disease Control.
The BSMLS Programme is a certification program that includes courses in basic sciences, communication skills, computing for health sciences, anatomy and physiology, as well as religious studies. Twenty-nine students were enrolled in the first semester starting in August 2012, most of whom will be sponsored by the Government Scholarship Programme. SANU also launched a Pharmacy Assistant course this semester.
At a launch ceremony held November 1, 2012, the Prime Minister of Swaziland offered the following words: "The courses represent a direct response to the priorities of His Majesty's Government and the outcome of extensive consultations between SANU and Government. The SANU University Senate gave approval for the two programmes to commence in August 2012 and we are grateful for the innovative spirit shown by SANU in introducing these highly relevant courses."
Also present at the ceremony were the US Ambassador, Ministers for Health and Minister for Education, the Regional Administrator, Manzini, the SANU Vice Chancellor and Principal, Members of Parliament, CDC Country Director, Principle Secretary MOH and other dignitaries. Since 2009, URC has worked with the Ministry of Health to strengthen Swaziland's HIV and TB lab services. A team of lab and quality improvement (QI) experts is assessing medical labs to identify areas for improvement and recommend quality improvement measures.
The launch of the BSMLSP at SANU is a direct result of the ongoing successful partnership that has developed between URC and the Ministry of Health in Swaziland. In December 2012, a situational analysis of Swaziland's laboratory capacity for TB and HIV conducted by URC showed insufficient human resources to staff lab facilities, as well as a lack of qualified staff, technical supervision, and training opportunities. The analysis identified the root causes of these issues to be the emigration of trained personnel out of Swaziland, and inadequate retention strategies designed to keep qualified staff.
To address this, URC conducted a feasibility study on establishing a pre-service laboratory training program through a university in Swaziland, a program that did not exist in the country at the time. Working in partnership with SANU, URC developed a draft curriculum for the four-year BSLMSP. The launch of the course in August followed the University Senate's final approval of the programme.
URC will continue to work with SANU and other stakeholders to ensure that the course meets national and international standards, and that it produces motivated, competent health professionals committed to improved laboratory services for TB and HIV in Swaziland.