Dr Malima: It pays to be patient, determined

We have seen women becoming presidents, and we have seen women taking over major political and social offices, and emerging as competent and role models.Tanzania, on its part, has seen one of its daughters, Dr Asha Rose Migiro beating all odds and being selected as the Deputy United Nations Secretary General, a historic feat in itself.

In our local politics, women have continued to show their political resolve by outclassing men in some positions, and the appointment of Ms Anne Makinda as the Speaker of the National Assembly proved a point to some doubting Thomas. The position of Tanzanian women in leadership positions is expansive in politics but their success is expanded to include academic positions as well.

Dr Khadija Innocensia Yahya Malima, a soft spoken woman, has beaten all odds in achieving her dreams of becoming one among the pioneer of graduate nurses in Tanzania, and that dream has propelled her to become the Dean at the School of Nursing at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS).

Talking to Dr Malima, one gets to learn the true meaning of patience, dedication and pure determination, and the will to go against the grain in achieving her goals.Dr Malima received her primary education at Kifungilo Girls Primary School in Lushoto District, Tanga Region which by then was known as Saint Mary’s Kifungilo, but  moved to Bunge Primary School in Dar es Salaam, where she completed her primary education  in 1981.

She later joined Forodhani Secondary School for her ‘O’ Level from 1982 to 1985 before moving on to Tambaza Secondary School where she completed  ‘A’ Level  in 1988, and thereafter enrolled at the Ruvu  JKT for a one year compulsory service.As a young girl, the young Ms Yahya  (maiden name) dreamt of  becoming a successful doctor, a profession she held dear to her heart, and she was determined to achieve it.

“Since I learnt how to read and write, I harbored a dream of becoming a doctor, and I knew with vision and determination, I was going to make it,” she says.With a PhD degree at the University of Bergen already under her belt, Dr Malima  currently the Dean of the School of Nursing, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), also boasts  a BSc in Nursing (MUHAS) and MSc in Epidemiology from the Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, UK.

Dr Malima remembers with nostalgia her first experience in the wards at the Muhimbili Hospital, when she was doing her rounds and came across a 14 year old boy.He was paralyzed, and had been admitted to the hospital for quite some time. The forlorn look on him begged for attention and I was the one to give that badly needed assistance.

“The boy was generally dirty but after conducting bed  bath on him, I realized that he had not been washed for a long time.  He was now changed and his real complexion which was light, was restored…. I knew then that God was leading me,” Dr Malima reminisces.This changed her life, and she realized that nursing was what she needed to do, because it was also one way of giving back to the society.

She also remembers the first patient who died in her arms, and unfortunately, it was a close relative, her grandmother.
She was still a trainee nurse, and when her grandmother, whom she had volunteered to stay with in the ward, suffered a major stroke, it was difficult for her know how to read and take vital signs.“I just realized that she was very cold, and when I learnt that she had died, it really affected me.

I thanked the other nurses however, most of whom were experienced, for consoling and counselling me before breaking the news to my mother. I couldn’t have handled the situation alone,” she says.Dr Malima did her internship at Muhimbili from 1995 to 1996, and when offered the chance to decide where she wanted to be posted, she chose to go to Morogoro School of Public Health.

Emerging as the best final year student and the best overall student, she did not see any challenge in teaching at the school in Morogoro, but after two years, she was ready for more challenges.She applied for a Post Graduate Diploma at the Cambridge University in the UK, and after going through her CV, they duly informed her that she was over qualified.

After considerable advice from the university management, in 1998 Dr Malima was on her way to the UK for a fully funded scholarship for her MSc in Epidemiology at the Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge.In 2000, she returned to Tanzania with more experience, but she discovered that her attained experience meant little, with drastic cuts in basic nursing salaries.

She opted to involve herself in other activities away from nursing and teaching, learning tailoring instead.But in 2002, a group of Norwegians came to Tanzania, and they convinced her to pursue a PhD degree, and she did not think twice, she  grabbed the chance.

She left for Norway that same year for the Bergen University and specialized  in Epidemiological context of HIV infection and Antenatal and Population.She returned to Tanzania the following year, and through a joint project between MUHAS and Bergen University, conducted a research on the spread of HIV in Sub-Saharan countries where about 23 million people are infected.

In 2007 she was employed at MUHAS, and the following year she was elevated to the Dean, School of Nursing at MUHAS, a position she holds up to now.

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