Rutendo Zvidza (37), who grew up in Nkulumane left Zimbabwe in 2013 to work as a nurse in Namibia.
“I trained as a general nurse at the United Bulawayo Hospitals and afterwards worked at Mater Dei Hospital. This was in 2013 and during the time, most nurses were leaving for Namibia as that country was in need of nurses,” she said in an interview with CITE.
Zvidza said she comes from a family of ‘so many’ nurses, so when she grew up, she knew one day she would also take the Florence Nightingale Pledge.
But more importantly, she wanted to share her knowledge with others.
“I have always wanted to teach nursing skills from the word go so when I came to Namibia, having worked for both private and government hospitals, that need to be a teacher heightened. I decided to come up with my own curriculum, which I submitted to the Health Professions Councils of Namibia to see if they could approve it,” Zvidza noted.
Without having to amend her curriculum, the Health Professions Councils of Namibia approved it on the first go, Zvidza proudly stated.
“This happened for the first time and never happened before, where a curriculum was approved once. The council then carried out site inspections of my school, which I had already started building,” she said.
“I was given the go-ahead to start training for a Diploma in Nursing Science and Midwifery in September 2020.”
The training school took its first batch of students in January 2021, who will graduate in January 2023.
“The school is fully accredited and recognised. It’s not just one, we have three other institutions and we are expanding. There are two training institutions in Windhoek, one is in Eros and the other in Windhoek West. Other branches are in Ongwediva, Otjiwarongo and Rundu,” Zvidza highlighted.
Zvidza claimed she self-funded the project until it took off.
“I had no sponsors. Initially, I started training small healthcare giver classes before the council had done its site inspection. If I could show you the house where I started training caregivers, you will laugh. I started off with plastic chairs, students were writing from their laps, as there were no tables,” she recalled.
“I come from a background where we were not so well off but had wealthy relatives so when I was growing up, I had an urge to be also successful and change my family’s fortunes.”
Zvidza said she managed to save from her salary to kickstart her dream. “In Namibia, when you work for two years and your contract is done, there is a certain amount that you are given. I used that money to pay for rent and started buying furniture. I had to push, save and at the end of the day be in a position to provide health care services in order to improve the health care delivery system of Namibia and worldwide,” she noted.
Zvidza noted that she was able to realise her dream in a foreign land due to the content and service being provided.
“You cannot just open anything being a foreigner but it depends on how you have developed your curriculum. Plus making it also depends on your social value, which is respect for people around you. At school, I used to be called Rapport because I always strived to create good relations with people,” Zvizda jokes.
“Building the training school was not easy but I managed to pull through and I am happy my host country is seeing the work we do.”
For staff recruitment, Zvidza employs a majority of Namibians from administrative to general and a few Zimbabweans.
“If you are in a foreign country, you are there to support them because you are in their country. I have managed to help some of my fellow countrymen, who have been struggling back home. I took them in, sorted their documentation and all have been granted permits,” she said.
“From Zimbabwe, I have mainly been taking registered nurses with master’s degrees in nursing education and they are already registered with the Health Professions Councils of Namibia.”
Currently, she has five Zimbabwean nurses that are employed there and the rest are Namibians.
“It’s a Namibian school which is there to support Namibia,” Zvidza said, adding although it was a private school it was affordable.
“We cater for students from different backgrounds and we don’t want to strangle learners by charging them high fees. At the end of the day, it’s not really about making money but about producing quality nurses. Whatever service you are providing has to be accessible.”
Zvidza said she was in the process of trying to compile documents in order to open a nursing training school in Zimbabwe.
“It’s on the pipeline. I have started with the process and hopefully have the funds if God permits so that I can also give back to my own country,” she stated.
Zvidza expressed gratitude to her family, saying they have been pillars of strength and source of encouragement.
She also thanked the Namibian government and people for supporting her dream.