When Yae Yoshino, Lecturer at Kitasato University’s School of Nursing, visited Mongolia, she was struck by the textbooks that young nurses were using. They weren’t really “books” at all, but thin booklets translated from Russian, imported from the former Soviet Union. Not much was up to date – including nursing education.
All the issues common to developing countries were apparent – poor infrastructure, poverty, malnutrition – as well as circumstances unique to Mongolia. The older generation spoke Russian, but not English, and without computers, gaining access to new information was difficult. 40 % of the population is nomadic, without adequate access to hospitals.
Since 2002, Yoshino, a mother and child health care specialist, visited Mongolia numerous times on behalf of the Japan Nursing Association. As her understanding of the local situation grew, she began to see the potential to make a difference. The nurses and midwives she met were highly motivated. The literacy rate was high. Yoshino contacted the World Bank Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC)’s Yuka Yabashi to inquire about distance learning opportunities, and a partnership was born.
Momentum is building to boost maternal and child healthcare training: the reduction of child mortality and improvement of maternal health are both included in the Millennium Development Goals, while the Japanese government has made a commitment to promote international health cooperation as host of this year’s G8 Summit.
The two collaborated quickly to develop a new training program, with the TDLC providing technical and program design support and Kitasato contributing subject expertise.
Yoshino, who has broad international experience, touts the value of technology and distance learning services: she sees it as a new way to provide development assistance that is actually more sustainable on a long-term basis. “Specialists and consultants who live and work in developing countries face enormous difficulties, very often left without access to knowledge resources. Hi-tech makes it so much easier, allowing us to save time and money and overcome the problems of international cooperation.”
Expanding scale and impact lies at the center of its design: by connecting from the TDLC to 5 sites in Mongolia via the World Bank’s videoconference network (GDLN), more than 200 young practitioners working at universities, hospitals and medical care centers will have the opportunity to receive a university-level lecture. Upon completion, each is expected to teach the course to at least 10 colleagues. This will enable the latest knowledge from Japan to reach more than 2000 health care workers.
Another unique feature is its effort to make nursing education sustainable. With the cooperation of the Mongolian Nursing Association, participants will use course material to create a new Mongolian textbook, ensuring that it is fully compatible with local conditions. A Mongolian version of the mother and child handbooks that are popularly used in Japan to monitor health conditions will be developed and distributed for general use.
In March, the two coordinators gave a presentation at the Mongolian Nursing Association’s National Congress held in Ulan Bator attended by more than 800. They were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response among local nurses, and their eagerness to try distance learning. International organizations working in Mongolia also expressed an interest in collaboration. Results of a needs-assessment survey and interviews conducted during the Congress will be reflected in the final syllabus to guarantee the satisfaction of Mongolian participants.
Visiting hospitals in Ulan Bator and staying at gers gave Yabashi a close look at local conditions. “The lack of medicine, equipment and textbooks was very serious. Many nurses told me that they have no opportunity to learn and update their knowledge”. The experience has inspired Yabashi to seek out other partners to further enhance the program for delivery to other countries in need.
For details about the program, see the Mongolia Mother and Child Healthcare Training Program page.