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The approach used by the Umthombo Youth Development Foundation is more than a simple bursary 'hand out'. Rather, it is one of the few long term solutions to the challenge of recruiting and retaining quality health care professionals for South Africa's rural areas. Research has shown that health professionals are more likely to choose to work in a rural hospital if that is they orginate, or if they are exposed to the realities of rural health care delivery whilst doing their university training.

 

However, given the realities of poverty and rural marginalization, a lot more than this is needed, and that is where the Umthombo YDF steps in. It offers a thought-through approach, tested over 10 years, which:

 

  • Provides an incentive for rural high school learners to work hard to achieve the grades that are needed to be accepted to study a health science course at University or University of Technology
  • Offers a beacon of hope for local learners and stimulates local youth development ("It is possible to come from a rural area and become a health professional!")
  • Provides localised mentors and role models for young people to emulate
  • Stimulates community development and co-operation, as hospital working groups help select the students who receive the scholarships
  • Offers students comprehensive support, allowing students to concentrate on their studies so they can pass. Financial barriers to higher eduacation are faced by most rural families 
  • Improves the quality of health care delivery, because the young health professionals come from the area, and therefore understand the language and the culture of the local people ("I am helping my community")
  • Builds hope and prosperity within rural communities
  • Offers what is probably one of the most sustainable solutions for the long-term supply of professional health staff for rural areas

 

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