Two Ugandan nurses gear up for expanded UCU leadership roles

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Elizabeth Ekong and Faith Sebuliba at Uganda Christian University (UgandaPartners Photo)

By Brendah Ndagire

In 2006, Elizabeth Ekong and Faith Sebuliba were part of the pioneer group of students enrolled in the Nursing Program at Uganda Christian University (UCU).  A dozen years later, they are close to leading it.

When they began, they did not think about the prospect of being considered the future leaders of UCU’s Nursing Program. Once they graduated with bachelor degrees in 2008, they got employed and started working as tutorial assistants for new students. As teaching assistants, they were intentionally mentored by the current founders and heads of UCU’s Nursing Department, Mrs. Jemimah Mutabaazi; and Dr. Karen Drake of Bethel University in Minnesota, USA. The mentorship process is geared towards sustaining the program leadership by putting it in the hands of Ugandans.

UCU nursing program growth
UCU nursing has deepened from certificates, diplomas and bachelor degrees to offerings at the post-graduate (PG) level. The first PG program leads to a Master of Nursing Science. Other graduate degree programs are planned in midwifery, women’s health, and psychiatry as these relate to nursing.

As trailblazers, Faith and Elizabeth graduated with their Master’s in Nursing Science in 2011. They were appointed lecturers, teaching undergraduate students in nursing classes such as foundations of nursing, medical surgical, anatomy, physiology, research, and midwifery. With Mrs. Mutabaazi, they were among only four full-time lecturers in all nursing classes for a long time. In their full-time lecturer roles, “we were expected to be an all-round teachers,” Elizabeth said. Today, they still work as lecturers as well as being online PhD students of nursing through Texila American University.

Faith with some of her students, Magdalene Kokor (right) and Kemigisha Misk (left)  –  (Uganda Partners Photo)

What makes UCU’s Nursing Program different from other programs in other universities in Uganda is that the Bachelor of Nursing curricula at UCU includes foundation courses like world views, Christian living (New and Old Testament), Christian ethics and others that ground students in reflecting and managing their future clients as individuals that deserve the best of care.

“To me, as a nurse, it is really important to strengthen my professional as well as my Christian ethics,” Elizabeth said. “As a Christian it is important to know what kind of professional ethics I am going to portray as I practice nursing.”

“All we are and what we do is the result of our faith. It is not all about being like any other nurse or teacher, but being a Christian nurse and teacher begins with serving the Author and Giver of this life we have, and inviting others to be part of that service in our communities.” Faith Sebuliba

Passion to serve
Reflecting on lessons learned as lecturers, Elizabeth and Faith both remember how they started their passion and inspiration for teaching and becoming nurses.

Speaking about the challenges facing UCU’s Nursing Program, they have seen the main obstacles of being under-staffed due to limited funding and lower student enrolment. The program currently has some part-time staff and “the challenge with that is we are unable to stretch part-time staff. They only give you the time they have available. Our hope is that we are able to hire and have full-time lecturers in the future,” Faith said.

Regarding low student enrolment, since the program is full-time, many prospective candidates are not able to apply for full-time classes. “Many of them are already working and cannot afford to hold their work and study full-time. The enrolment numbers have been going down over the years, so our responsibility is to make sure that these number start increasing,” added Faith.

Elizabeth in class with her student Esther Gidongo.  (UgandaPartners Photo)

The main question they ask themselves is how they can keep providing good quality education and also attract a good number of students in the nursing program. In future, they are looking at revising the nursing curriculum, modifying their teaching methods to include more dialogue, and the possibility of having both online and classes on campus for undergraduate students.

“We (also) intend to increase work-based learning so as to create an impact on the employability of our graduates, and strengthen employability skills for professional nurses,” Elizabeth said.

Partnerships are key
Partnerships are one way of increasing the number of students coming through the bachelor and master degree pipeline. Two years ago, partnerships were forged with Bwindi and Kagando Schools of Nursing, which both offer Diplomas in Nursing. The two women intend to maintain this partnership, with the hope that if diploma graduates are interested in getting their BA in nursing, they would come to UCU.

They also hope to continue the tradition of grooming other students. And part of doing this is having an inclusive education. According to Faith, “students have different learning needs. Our responsibility is to come down to the level of students, and make sure that every student is included in the conversation we are having on a particular subject.” Being humble as a teacher also is important.  Teachers can learn from students.

Success viewpoints
What does success look from the two mentored nurse perspectives?

For Elizabeth, success is “when students graduate and excel in every sphere of their lives. I understand that teaching is not about me, but about what kind of graduates we put out in our communities. What makes me happy is when I see a nursing graduate having a job… [and] when our graduates are confident in what they are doing in the field.”

For Faith: “We want to see as many people come to the program and when they go out there, they are relevant to the communities they are serving.”

They are excited about the future of nursing in Uganda. According to Faith, nursing in Uganda was previously the career for someone who couldn’t qualify for university learning.

“People have looked at nursing as some kind of diversion in career,” Elizabeth said. “If you failed in this field, you can be a nurse. This led to so many people in Uganda to disrespect the field and the nurses themselves.”

Having PhD graduates within Uganda’s nursing field would enhance the profession’s credibility.  “The more qualified nursing graduates are, the more chances there are that Uganda’s healthcare system is going to improve,” Faith said.

This is pertinent to their responsibility as nurses and lecturers themselves, to change the perception of nursing and nurses at UCU and in Uganda.

“We want to let people know that the nursing field is for academicians and professionals who want to give quality nursing services to the communities in Uganda,”  said Elizabeth.


The Nursing Department at UCU is grateful for the special partnership they have with Bethel University. And  these two women are specifically  thankful to God, Uganda Partners’ support,  and UCU leadership for investing in their growth as lecturers. If you are interested in supporting UCU’s Nursing Department or its students, contact the Uganda Partners’ Executive Director, Mark Bartels, at

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