President Paul Kagame has told the University of Global Health Equity’s (UGHE) fifth cohort of graduates that the skills they acquired at UGHE are an important part of the region's aspiration for improved health care and better research capacity, and conveyed his hope that they would find ways to share lessons from Rwanda with the region and the world as they progress into their future careers.
Kagame made the remarks at a virtual ceremony where UGHE graduates were awarded the Masters in Science for Global Health Delivery (MGHD) degree—the institution’s flagship program—on Sunday, August 9.
Invitations were extended across the globe to families and friends of the graduates as well as supporters of UGHE’s mission and vision for the future.
Some 28 masters students, hailing from twelve countries graduated, joining the ranks of over 120 MGHD alumni from UGHE already making an impact in their respective fields of global health to serve the world’s most vulnerable populations.
It was the fifth cohort the University has seen pass through its doors since it’s opening in 2015, and the second to have experienced the state-of-the-art facilities in its 2019-inaugurated campus in Butaro, Burera District.
President Kagame told graduates who continued their studies and academic projects in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown that the operation at UGHE had and will continue to enrich everyone and that “Rwanda is behind them [the graduates] as they set out to implement what they have learned.”
The MGHD 2020 Graduation marks the culmination of an intensive year of learning for students, who have been exposed to, and learnt from, the expertise of world-class teaching from faculty and visiting faculty, as well as the nuanced insights of community-level health professionals.
Students learnt from the unique insights from surrounding communities in Burera District where the campus is situated, as well as how to analyse through a biosocial lens the impact of social determinants of health.
Speaking at the Ceremony was also the Chancellor of UGHE and Co-founder and Chief Strategist of Partners In Health, Professor Paul Farmer, who congratulated the graduates and urged them to use their skills to repair the broken and inequitable health systems, and fight for the global advancement of equity.
“Our students situate UGHE at the forefront of a collective struggle to advance health equity around the world. Already, our graduates are fulfilling the promise of UGHE in diverse parts of the world, and this community of scholar-activists grows every year," Prof. Farmer said.
Speaking alongside Prof. Farmer was the Minister of Health, Dr. Daniel Ngamije, the Minister of Education, and Dr. Valentine Uwamariya, the latter who told audiences that ‘UGHE is not only committed to building the capacity of the health sector, but bringing new ideas to the education sector to train competent high quality health professionals and educators’.
Dignitaries from Northern Province and from Burera District also attended virtually.
“Covid-19 changes will not affect the quality of education at UGHE”
The Vice Chancellor of UGHE, Prof. Agnes Binagwaho, spoke to students and attendees of the virtual commencement, saying that UGHE graduates have both learned from the pandemic, and are leaving UGHE equipped with the tools to both be prepared and also effectively respond to future outbreaks with a focus on equity.
“Over the last five months, our graduates were able to learn on the frontline a country's successful handling of Covid-19, as well as how UGHE remained functional while preventing the spread of disease and protecting everyone's health in an inclusive manner. With such examples, they are ready to face future crises, and protect the communities they will serve,” she said.
Professor Senait Fisseha, Board Member of UGHE and a globally-recognized leader in reproductive health and rights, told the media during the event that the university has successfully implemented new strategies to adapt to the global pandemic without affecting in any way the world-class quality of education provided to all learners at UGHE.
She referred to this time as “an unprecedented opportunity for innovation and to continue looking for ways to tackle this challenge” as well as encouraging the new graduates to ‘lean into your networks and communities as they will be your greatest asset.”
Prof. Abebe Bekele, UGHEs Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic & Research Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine, motivated graduates at the Commencement to ‘take advantage of these challenging times, by directing your knowledge into doing good' with the hope that each and every UGHE alumni will fulfil a challenging, yet pivotal role in the development and innovation of global health systems.’
Rogers Muragije, UGHE’s Deputy Vice Chancellor of Administrative and Financial Affairs, was also a leading player in the continuation of learning for students during a completely locked down, but fully operational campus, as authorized by the Government of Rwanda ‘We continued to serve our clients -- students and employees -- by rapidly absorbing and applying the learnings from the successes and failures of the global response to COVID-19, thinking innovatively about organizational structure, and planning equitable solutions for immediate outcomes and for the future, helping our institution to thrive in times of global uncertainty” he said.
Contributing to the fight against Covid-19
In several countries MGHD alumni have been at the forefront of the Covid-19 response efforts in testing, tracing and training community health workers to disseminate key prevention messaging within their respective communities.
In an interview with The New Times, Dr. Ngamije said that furthering the fight against the pandemic, Rwanda needs skilled workers to dispersedly work across the country.
Dr. Ngamije congratulated the graduates and welcomed their contribution to the fight against Covid-19.
Through the commitment and dedication of UGHE students, faculty, staff, and campus workers, as well as the esteemed supporters of UGHE’s mission including the Government of Rwanda, UGHE has been able to deliver its promise of quality, equitable education provision to all of its learners despite unprecedented circumstances, including the graduating MGHD cohort.
UGHE looks forward to welcoming a new intake of MGHD students this October, representing 13 countries, who will continue UGHE’s ambition to expand globally the access of vulnerable communities to quality delivery services, and accelerate the dissemination of discovery and innovation in global health.Follow Ange_Iliza