Poor English costs Kenyan nurses’ jobs abroad

Out of over 300 who sat proficiency language test only 10 passed. [Courtesy]

Incompetence in the English language is the biggest obstacle for medical personnel seeking jobs in English-speaking countries.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe yesterday said out of the more than 300 health workers who sat the mandatory English tests, only 10 passed.

The CS said the health workers also performed dismally in computer skills tests.

In July, Britain agreed to hire 20,000 Kenyan nurses. According to the agreement between the two countries, the nurses will be employed on a three-year contract, with a salary of Sh450,000 a month.

But yesterday, Kagwe said many of them might miss the lucrative offer for their failure to pass the basic proficiency tests.

“Our failure rate, particularly in English, is extremely high. We sent 300 people through the English exams. Only 10 passed,” said Kagwe at the PrideInn Paradise Hotel, Mombasa, during the opening of the Kenya Clinical Officers Association annual scientific conference.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Kagwe asked training institutions to offer quality education to meet global standards.

“We must set standards so that we are sure that there is no exam anywhere on earth that a clinical officer trained in Kenya can fail.”

He said the government will continue to negotiate with other nations to get more jobs, adding that talks with some governments in the Middle East and Europe for the export of clinical officers were ongoing.

“We are sending our health workers after having satisfied our own market,” Kagwe said. “The dignity of getting a job and the pride that comes with working is something that we cannot deny our people.”

The Director of Clinical Services Manasseh Bocha said out of the 24,000 registered clinical officers, only about 7,000 are employed in public institutions.

Kenya Union of Clinical Officers Chairman Peterson Wachira lauded the move to seek job opportunities abroad.

“In the over 19 specialities, we provide over 98 per cent of the anaesthetic services in the country and over 98 per cent of the cataract surgeries in Kenya,” he added.

Britain agreed to hire 20,000 Kenyan nurses in July. [Courtesy]

Clinical officers, Kagwe said, are the most crucial part of Universal Health Coverage and must attain quality training.

He said the government will create capacity in both infrastructure and resources and increase the number of clinical officers in tune with the population.

“We have agreed with the Public Service Commission that we will increase the workforce of clinical officers who are currently working for us,” said the CS.

He said the government will every year recruit health workers the same way it hires soldiers and police officers.