At 60-years-old, Mary Musoke has spent more than half her life in service to others. Mulago Training School was her first stop 38 years ago in a profession that has brought her immense satisfaction. It is only 10 a.m. and her Mama Maria Clinic at Kagoma, Kawempe District, is teeming with mothers and their infants. Some are expectant. Many await their turn from across the dirt road where motorcycles zoom by every few seconds. Mama Maria, as she is fondly referred to here, has truly captured the heart of the community. She is excited at the idea of bringing life into this world and nurturing it.
“I delivered these twins five years ago, and we have just found out the mother is expecting another set.”
While hers is not the fanciest of clinics, to Mama Maria it is far better than the single-room, two-bed delivery centre where she started when she resigned from the National Referral Hospital at Mulago. During her eight years in public service, Mama Maria felt very little job satisfaction. It broke her heart that she was not able to give the personalised care that attracted her to the profession in the first place.
“Sometimes you would miss a chance to speak to mothers and give them advice because you were very busy. You work as if you are a soldier. Mothers fear you,” she says.
To whom much is given, much is expected. Her clinic was doing relatively well. She was earning more than she was previously, and her patients seemed happy with her services.
However it soon became apparent running a private clinic required more knowledge and skills. She needed an upgrade from her diploma in nursing. A friend spoke highly of AKU-SONAM and she was sold.
A few years shy of 50, Mama Maria enrolled for a BScN. She was the oldest in the class. Her younger classmates were puzzled as to why an established midwife who owned a clinic would go back to school.
“I want my clinic to become a midwife-run model maternity home in Uganda where people from within and abroad come to learn best practices. That is my dream. I am retired but I am not tired!”
“The mothers need a more qualified person because when you are deep in the community, you are king of the community. You have to be king in knowledge and skills, especially when you talk about health. There is no room for guesswork.”
Her time at AKU-SONAM both shocked and impressed her. The computer-based course demanded new skills from Mama Maria, which she loved. The well-equipped library was instrumental for her research modules, and the leadership and management modules moulded Mama Maria into an outstanding manager.
“After my graduation in 2005, I was elected President of the Private Midwives Association, where I have served for two terms.”
The exposure from travelling the world has her heaping praise on AKU-SONAM. She also applauds the alumni follow-up system.
“Whenever AKU has opportunities for short courses, they call and ask if I am interested. They still remember I am a daughter of the Aga Khan University.”
The little girl who decades earlier had watched mothers holding their babies and working in banana plantations, today works hand in hand with traditional birth attendants to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. She encourages them to send mothers to her for postnatal clinics.