Namibia: Nurses Ponder Student Movement

The Namibia Nurses Union (Nanu) plans to establish a student movement, particularly aimed at addressing issues that concern nursing students around the country.

"As the only vanguard for nurses in the country, [Nanu] has taken a very clear and objective decision to launch a student movement at all the institutions offering nursing courses in the country," a statement issued by the union on Tuesday reads.

The statement further said the sole responsibility of the movement would be to unequivocally address problems nursing students face that have for long gone unattended.

The statement details that the movement intends to be a mouthpiece for student nurses, as their needs are always overlooked and ignored because of their complexity.

Nanu secretary general Junias Shilunga told The Namibian that nursing students had approached the union to bring their problems to the fore.

"There are a lot of challenges in the nursing faculty. Many students started calling, saying they need a helping hand," he said.

While Shilunga declined to speak about the particular issues plaguing student nurses, in August 2019 the government decided to suspend nursing training, to the dismay of Nanu and many student nurses.

This was amid the glaring acute shortage of health professionals in the country. The government cited funding constraints as the reason behind the decision to suspend the programmes.

At that time, Nanu expressed dissatisfaction with the decision, stating that it ignored the important role nurses play in the healthcare system.

Shilunga said general student unions such as the Student Union of Namibia (SUN) and the Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) are not particularly equipped to cater to the unique needs of student nurses.

"The majority of them [SUN and Nanso representatives] are not from that [nursing] faculty, so it would be difficult for anyone to get involved in discussions affecting nurses," he stated.

Furthermore, Shilunga said the union intends establishing branches of the student movement in every campus that trains nurses in the country.

He also said it has always been the union's plan to establish a body for students, which allowed them to contribute directly to various

changes within the nursing faculty, including contributions to curriculum formulation.

While welcoming the union's effort to start working with student nurses, SUN president Simon Amunime expressed concern at the mushrooming of student organisations around the country, stating that division is not necessarily good for the plight of students.

"We always welcome an idea of anyone that is intending to represent students [but] when we have small chunks of representation, it becomes easier for the enemy to attack us. At the end of the day, we might find a lot of competing structures, and then no one will listen to us," he explained.

Furthermore, Amunime stated that the movement might experience difficulties due to the nature of their in-the-field work.

"They must take into consideration that students in the health sector are usually in the field, so it takes away their ability to participate in student activism, like meetings and rallies.

So it becomes difficult for them to execute," he observed.

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