The Grameen Caledonian Programme has reached a major milestone as the Caledonian College of Nursing opens its doors to students for the very first time.
In 2009, an agreement was reached between The Grameen Trust and GCU to establish a high quality college for the education of nurses and midwives in Dhaka. The college will develop nursing and midwifery standards in Bangladesh to an international level through the provision of the highest quality education and research.
Similar projects have been successfully completed by GCU Professors and professional experts in other developing nations, such as Kosovo and Tajikistan, prompting Professor Yunus to request the University’s assistance in Bangladesh, where the present lack of trained health professionals is seriously hindering health development. Compared to, for example, the UK, where 680,000 registered nurses serve a population of 60 million, Bangladesh struggles with only 23,000 nurses for their population of 145 million.
The founding Principal of the new nursing college is GCU’s Professor Barbara Parfitt, who is also Director of the Caledonian Centre for Global Health and recipient of a CBE in 2007 for services to international health development. Professor Parfitt is currently in Dhaka, preparing for the opening of the college where progress has been rapid, thanks to the enthusiasm and support of staff at Grameen Health Trust and a generous grant of $2.5 million donated by the Nike Foundation. Here, Professor Parfitt talks about her work with the project:
“Life has been non-stop since I have been here as the starting up of a new college means creating everything from the beginning. We are in the process of setting up the systems and writing new policies, appointing staff, buying all the basic equipment needed to fit out classrooms, library and labs. We are refurbishing offices while at the same time preparing the curriculum and teaching materials. We will appoint a house mother this weekend for the students’ hostel and make arrangements for students to get milk and fruit as extra rations in their hostel diet. We have commissioned bunk beds and will be setting up dormitories with 16 students per room. I don’t think that would go down very well in Caledonian Court, our student residence in Glasgow. Preparing the budget for the college over the next five years has also been a major undertaking. With no budget to build on there always seem to be additional items we have forgotten to include. We have had a lot of help in developing the budget from Grameen Kalyen (Grameen Health). It doesn’t seem as if it is going to be possible to get everything ready for when the students arrive but I am sure we will at least get the most important things done. In addition to all these very practical problems we are also preparing the curriculum, planning the timetables and writing the teaching materials.
We have a really great team of four lecturers, an acting Vice Principal and an accountant/administrator plus a peon (similar to a porter) and a cleaning lady. Everyone is working hard as we all want this to be a success. The first 43 students arrived on March 1st and they were selected from an original 212 applicants, all from Grameen families all over Bangladesh. We short-listed 55 who were invited to attend a selection programme over three days. During the programme they were asked to complete an admission test and participate in organised team games and activities that gave us an insight into a range of their skills and aptitudes as well us giving us the chance to measure their ability in understanding English. In spite of a demanding few days we had a lot of fun with the students and they all went away feeling they had had a good time. Sadly we could not accept everyone and those who we had to turn down were in tears at the thought of not being accepted.
The college accommodation is situated on the third and fourth floors in the first Grameen Bank building in Dhaka. It is very pleasant with long balconies opening out onto a courtyard below. Other Grameen enterprises occupy the first two floors. Land has been identified for the permanent site of the new college and once the negotiations have been completed work will commence on the building. It is expected that we will have the new building in three years.
It’s a very exciting phase of the development and we are looking forward to seeing the students in March.”
In future newsletters Barbara Parfitt will keep readers informed of progress with this important partnership project. GCU hopes to raise funds to permit student and staff exchange between Glasgow and the new college in Dhaka. GCU staff and students will be asked to volunteer their knowledge and expertise to help in Bangladesh and we hope to provide scholarships for staff and students from the new college to improve their education at GCU. If you would like to support this important work please go to https://www.committedgiving.uk.net/gcal/public2/donor.aspx