Bombali District, Sierra Leone, August 18, 2019 – On a busy street corner near downtown Makeni stands a lone sign. It was an advertisement for the Makeni Midwifery School, informing potential prospective students of the opportunity but a few miles away. Thousands of people see this sign every day, but few possess the qualifications to enroll, and fewer will have the opportunity to become midwives.
Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Despite valiant efforts to combat the crisis, a lack of qualified healthcare workers, and midwives in particular, is a leading factor contributing to the problem. This, according to Cecilia Massaquoi, an administrator at the Midwifery School, is the central issue the school is trying so hard to address. Cecelia explains this, saying, “We still have a huge human resource gap so [I think] training more midwives is key.” The school’s mission is to train the next generation of fully qualified midwives, preparing them to confront maternal mortality in the less accessible provinces.
With the help of non-profit, international, and government funding the Makeni midwifery School has already been able to graduate almost five hundred midwives so far. Considering how Sierra Leone had fewer than one hundred midwives in 2014, the Makenia Midwifery School has been tremendously impactful in helping to fill crucial healthcare worker positions. Students here study a balanced curriculum that includes theoretical classroom work, focusing on anatomy and providing a formal academic background to midwifery. Later the students get to apply this study through practical field work where they learn how to handle situations in a real medical setting. Upon graduating the newly minted midwives join the growing force of critically needed medical professionals, prepared to take on whatever the crisis has to throw their way.
The Makeni Midwifery School’s impact extends far beyond statistics though. Students like Mabinty Samawaty feel that this school has given them the opportunity to give back to the country they love and do good at the same time. Mabinty is almost complete with her studies and will be graduating soon. Upon her graduation she will be stationed in a rural Peripheral Health Unit and work on the front lines of the maternal mortality crisis. Some might be nervous being a fresh-faced graduate tasked with tackling such an enormous challenge, but Mabinty is excited. Mabinty says, “Where I grew up I’ve seen how people suffer, so I decided to make up my mind and come [to the Midwifery School] to make sure that I go out and make an impact!” This is what she trained for after all, and she’s ready to go out and make a difference.