Arusha Times (Arusha)

Tanzania: SEKOMU Enrolls Mental Health Students First Batch

Walking at a fast pace, Yakobo moves with a couple of papers in his left hand and visits households, mainly in areas of Tanga city-near commercial banks, hotels and pharmacies.

He asks some of the people he comes across to sign their names on a piece of paper and continues with his errands the scotching sun notwithstanding. But more specifically, he aims his mission on water metres where he kneels and carefully records the gadgets' readings. Yakobo's papers are full of scribbling, so much that it is not easy to make out what is written therein.

The middle aged man wears sandals of different sizes and appears rather shabby, with unkempt hair. Apparently, Yakobo's case is one among thousands others who appear and behave in a similar way in various parts of the country. These are the people who unfortunately suffer from mental disorders, a deplorable feeling which normally manifests itself in anger, laziness, desolation and hopelessness.

Tanzania is one of countries in the world with an astonishing shortage of manpower in mental health care.

Available statistics show that the country has 900-bed capacity of psychiatric patients. These are in Mirembe hospital, a government health facility where patients with mental health problems are taken care of. It has 600 beds.

Another mental health hospital is Lutindi in Korogwe district which accommodates 100 patients. It is a specialist unit, founded by German missionaries in 1896 and owned by the North Eastern Diocese (NED)of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania[ELCT].

Having noticed that the trend of people with mental health was going up each passing day, the Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University (SEKOMU), a faith based institution, dedicated to serve the underprivileged, disabled, humiliated section of community, came up with a new programme enrolling its first batch of mental health students last month.

SEKOMU's Vice Chancellor, Rev. Dr. Anneth Munga says the objective of the programme, BSc. in Mental Health and Rehabilitation, is to have well groomed technicians who can support health services at regional and district levels.

"SEKOMU decided to establish the new programme in recognition of the prevailing acute shortage of well trained technicians in the field of mental health and rehabilitation," said the academician in an exclusive interview at the weekend.

She said: "The aim is to provide university level education, with emphasis on supporting people who are in the lowest spectrum of the social pyramid."

The programmes facilitator, Dr. Joseph Mbatia says introduction of the new course emanates from the concern on the growing social problems namely poverty, marital issues, family values, child abuse and drug addiction.

Dr. Mbatia, one of the leading specialists in mental health in the country, mentions other problems which afflict the society as stresses, a condition which tends to increase mental disorders.

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