Two Midwifery Students, Past and Present

In this post, we hear the stories of two midwives – one graduate from the National Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) in Uganda, and one current student at the Jonglei Health Sciences Institute (JHSI).

Midwives at the NIHS

Jane Keniken Sabir is a midwife from the Nuba Mountains, a particularly needy area of Sudan. She is a registered midwife, the first ever of her kind in Nuba. Jane graduated from the National Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) in August 2017 with a Diploma in Registered Midwifery.

Jane comes from a family of Coptic Christian priests who have lived by faith in the Nuba Mountains since the 17th century when the area was invaded. In early 2000, when the Nuba Mountains were being bombed, their family took a crucial decision. They decided that the priests who were all men would remain and try to keep the church going but the women and children were all to be sent to South Sudan for schooling and for safety. It was in South Sudan where Jane finished her schooling before applying to become a midwife in 2014.

In 2017, Jane knew that the situation back home in the Nuba Mountains was still fragile with only one mission hospital and no qualified midwife. She knew that mothers who lived far from this hospital would never receive medical care. As a result, she chose to return by walking across the border and found employment at a health centre. Jane says that generally there is a lack of health education among her people and they do not know that giving birth at home is not usually safe.

Jane Keniken Sabir (left)
Jane Keniken Sabir (left)

She believes that if these women are given a proper health education, there will be a huge, positive change and the lives of many mothers and children will be saved. On returning, she discovered the needs were so overwhelming that she and her supervisor (a non-medic) decided to train other women as community midwives. Using the resources and notes from her course at the NIHS, she developed a simplified training programme.

Recollecting her time at the NIHS, Jane says that she learned many things in and out of class; she came to know Jesus Christ in a way she didn’t before. She adds that the love and friendship that she received and all the retreats, class prayers plus her medical education inspired her to return to the Nuba Mountains to serve her people. She last met with Anil and Shalini Cherian in June 2018 in Uganda but they haven’t heard from her since.

Despite this, they are confident that this amazing and courageous young woman is saving lives and bringing the hope of Christ to many women in this forgotten part of the world.

Anil’s comments: We aim at transforming the lives of young people in South Sudan who will go on to become trained and qualified health professionals. But how do we know that we have impacted the lives of these students? By their career choices. Jane’s story exemplifies this visible impact – that she actually chose to return to work in a war zone at a tremendous risk rather than remain in the relative safety of South Sudan. Also that she was able to use her skills to train others. This suggests that our work has a significant ripple effect and missional impact.

Grace Athieng Wel is a current midwifery student at the Jonglei Health Sciences Institute.

In October 2019, the current batch of midwifery students were posted to the pre-natal clinic at Bor State Referral Hospital to do examinations on pregnant mothers. Very quickly they discovered that many of the components of the World Health Organisation’s antenatal care recommendations were not being implemented so the students began by taking the blood pressure measurements for the pregnant mothers. They made sure that all the women who came to the clinic were properly checked.

Bor (where the JHSI is situated)

The pregnant mothers at the clinic were amazed and kept asking the students if they were from Bor or if they had been brought in from some other town. One of the women said that she had had four of her babies at the hospital but had never been looked after so well. She appreciated the students for making a special effort to educate them about danger signs during pregnancy. Grace was asked whether she had been trained in Kenya or Uganda and was able to explain that she was being trained in Bor. She was also asked about what motivated her to be different from the other staff.

Grace was happy to share her life story with the patients – how she always wanted to be a midwife since she was a young girl and saw a woman in her neighbourhood dying during childbirth. As she grew, she saw how difficult it was for women to access quality maternal health or child health services. Her prayer was that God would enable her to become a professional midwife one day. Many of her friends in Bor told her that it was impossible unless she had the money to travel to Juba or Uganda to get midwifery training. So when she heard of the Jonglei Health Sciences Institute starting it was an answer to her prayers. At the JHSI Annual Student Retreat, she testified how her faith was strengthened through her answered prayers. She is confident that one day she will be equipped to care for pregnant mothers and provide them with competent and loving care. She will serve and shine as a lamp in this remote war-affected region of Africa. As she testified, ‘God is good all the time and his promises never fail.’

Anil’s comment: This short testimony was told by Grace Athieng Wel during the Annual Student Retreat held at the end of October. We try to include an element of discipleship in our healthcare training programmes as we have an opportunity to speak into the lives of these precious young people. As the students proceed through the many challenges and struggles they face, they are confronted with the reality of God and learn more of His goodness. Our prayer is that they will become leaders in their community and also in the local church. Grace will be 23 years old when she graduates and will serve as a midwife for another 35 years. Over the course of her career she will touch the lives of at least 10,000 women and their children. One is reminded of the medical missionary Helen Roseveare’s contributions in the Democratic Republic of Congo where she trained similar health workers.

Please lift up both Jane and Grace in your prayers as they serve in midwifery. Pray that Jane would be able to continue to equip her peers with midwifery skills and that Grace would thrive in her studies.