30 November 2012

Uganda: Hard Work, Patience Paid Off for Dr. Akol

Dr. Zainab Akol, the principal medical officer in charge of Family Planning at the Ministry of Health has dealt with HIV/AIDS issues for years.

Formerly, she worked as the AIDS Control Programme (ACP) manager at the ministry. Maureen Nakatudde spoke to her about her life and work.

The first time you meet Dr. Zainab Akol you might get intimidated because of her big office and the position she holds. But your fear is gradually alleviated as she begins to talk.

The main table in her office is laden with organised books, files and papers. In one corner there is a round table with six chairs where she holds meetings. She sits at a table in another corner with a laptop. A small television hangs just above her head airing international news.

A medical doctor by profession, Dr. Akol never dreamt that one day she would be in any leadership or managerial position. She jokes: "I was never a prefect or a class monitress at school."

But with hard work and excellence atwhatever she does, it was not long before she got to the top, not only in the ministry, but in various places where she has worked, like Kibuli Hospital. Besides hard work, Dr. Akol truly has a passion to help people.

She says she got this attribute from her mother who used to host many people under her roof. Dr. Akol's father was a teacher and her mother was a housewife.

"Although we did not have much money, we had peace, religion and food. We dressed in rags, but our bellies were full of food," she reminisces.

Her mother, Regina Onyul, died in 2009. Akol describes her mother as a hardworker and because of this, she says their children managed to excel in school.

They also related well with the people in the community and their teachers. Growing up, the family would move from place to place as the job of a teacher demanded.

"I remember whenever we were leaving for school, we moved around the teachers' quarters bidding them farewell."

Dr. Akol says the good schools she went to also enabled her to exploit her potential as a child. She studied at Ngora Primary School, where her father was a teacher in1971.

She then had her secondary school education at Sacred Heart Girls School, Gulu. Thereafter, she was admitted to Makerere University for a degree in medicine and surgery.

Unfortunately, in 1981, her father died while she was in her fourth year of study. "This was heart-rending. I loved my father so much, I nearly lost a term," says Akol. "But looking at my family, I was the eldest and it would not do well if I indulged in self-pity.

I purposed to move on and I completed the course. I then got a job at Old Kampala hospital and also at Kibuli."

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