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  • South Africa’s first veterinary nurses graduate

    South Africa’s first veterinary nurses graduate

    Being one of the country’s first veterinary nurse graduates is a dream come true for Randburg resident Phumelela Mthimkhulu (21), who has been passionate about animals since she was a child.

    Mthimkhulu recently graduated from the University of Pretoria (UP), the only veterinary training facility in SA, with a Bachelor of Veterinary Nursing degree.

    “It’s crazy to wrap my head around. To know that I was part of the first class to do the bachelor’s degree, which has been years in the making, is an honour.

    “I’m grateful for the opportunities and doors that will open for us nurses to further our studies and specialise within our profession, which was hard to do in the past,” she says. 

    Tamarin Fisher, the President of the Veterinary Nurses Association of South Africa, says this is the biggest milestone in the profession’s 42-year history.

     “The new three-year degree will give qualified nurses the opportunity to enrol in postgraduate studies, which will hopefully culminate in the awarding of masters and PhD degrees.”

    Veterinarians treat animals’ injuries and illnesses, similar to how a doctor provides health treatment for people. Veterinary nurses are essential in vets’ professional teams, says Mthimkhulu.

    “Some of the vital skills a nurse has to display are patient care, client communication, assisting veterinarians with procedures, and anything that will help the veterinary hospital to function at its best.

    “It’s one of the most rewarding professions. If you want to be a veterinary nurse, don’t allow fear or a lack of knowledge to deter you from trying it out and enjoying it because it will change your life for the better,” says Mthimkhulu.

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    Bursaries to address skills shortage

    Due to a severe skills shortage in the sector, Mthimkhulu didn’t battle to find a job.

    “I was lucky enough to secure a job at Fourways Veterinary Hospital during my final year. I started working there about a month after my final exams and I’ve been enjoying every moment of it,” she says.

    The Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) is committed to addressing the extreme skills shortage in the veterinary sector and ensuring transformation.

    It recently launched a Veterinary Science Career Guidance Campaign, in partnership with the Department of Higher Education and Training, and will be visiting rural schools to encourage learners to consider veterinary services as a career path.

    It also announced 60 bursaries to address the critical shortage of veterinarians and para-veterinarians in South Africa’s rural areas.

    “The bursaries are specifically aimed at learners in rural areas as they can take their knowledge back to their homesteads,” says Dr Nomfundo Mnisi, the Chairperson of the HWSETA.

    The Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Buti Manamela, welcomed the bursaries.

    The UP’s Faculty of Veterinary Science will assist the HWSETA in its marketing, bursary funding and recruitment campaigns.

    “We will also assist the HWSETA in administering the bursaries, which were allocated for first-year veterinary science students from the designated groups,” says Chris van Blerk, the Head of Communications and Media at UP’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.

    He says youth hoping to follow in Mthimkhulu’s footsteps and register for a first bachelor’s degree at UP need to have completed their National Senior Certificate (NSC), or equivalent qualification, and meet minimum requirements.

    “For the Bachelor of Veterinary Nursing degree, they need a minimum Admission Point Score of 28 and an NSC with English Home Language or English First Additional Language, mathematics, and physical sciences or life sciences,” he adds.

    For more information about the sector, youth can contact private veterinary practices or speak to Compulsory Community Service (CCS) veterinarians which are part of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) around the country.

    “The CCS programme aims to provide accessible and affordable veterinary services to under-served and poor resourced areas within South Africa. As such, vets in the programme will always serve as good information resources,” says Van Blerk.

    How to apply

    To apply for one of the new bursaries, prospective students must strictly apply for the UP’s Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Bachelor of Veterinary Nursing (both selection courses) on the UP’s online system at www.up.ac.za/online-application(link is external). Applicants should not apply directly to the HWSETA

    The closing date for applications is 30 June.

    For more information about careers in veterinary science within UP, visit www.up.ac.za/faculty-of-veterinary-science(link is external).

    For more information about other bursaries available in the sector, visit www.up.ac.za/faculty-of-veterinary-science/article/33926/bursaries-for-v…(link is external).

    “I’m grateful for the opportunities and doors that will open for us nurses to further our studies and specialise within our profession, which was hard to do in the past.”

    Written by Allison Cooper

    This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk’uzenzele.

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