Scott School of Nursing Graduation

His Majesty the King,
The Right Honourable Prime Minister,
Minister of Health,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Heads of International Organizations,
Chairperson of the Council on Higher Education,
Principal Secretary of Health,
Our Health Partners,
Representatives of international and local non-governmental organizations,
Nurses and healthcare practitioners,
Members of the media,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
And today, most importantly, honored graduates,

Congratulations to the graduating class of the Scott School of Nursing!

It is a distinct privilege for me to be a part of today’s celebration of the culmination of very hard work – by students, by faculty, and by administrators. I feel particularly honored to be able to address you today because I believe so strongly in the importance of your mission.

I believe so strongly in your mission because my mother was a home health nurse for many years. She went into people’s homes in the communities where we lived and cared for patients, many of them very poor and without many other options for health care. She provided excellent care, of course, but she also took the time to learn about their neighborhoods and she got to know their families. My mother’s patients very quickly came to trust her, not only because she was good at the medical side of her job. She was also very good at the people side of her job. She genuinely cared about her patients’ well-being, and that was obvious to them. And, as all of you know, that trust between nurse and patient is essential to the effective delivery of health care. I was inspired by my mother’s dedication to her work, and I am in awe of what all of you do. It is critically important work, and I thank you for your service.

I am so proud that the American people, via the United States Government, have been able to partner with the Ministry of Health in supporting today’s graduating class, and nurses throughout the country, through the Nursing Education Partnership Initiative (or NEPI). NEPI is part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (or PEPFAR, as it is commonly known). Through PEPFAR, the United States works closely – with government, and external and internal development partners — to address the HIV/ AIDS epidemic. The United States, through PEPFAR, works in all ten districts of Lesotho, providing services to communities and technical assistance to the Ministry of Health, the Lesotho Defense Force, and other government agencies.

Since its inception in 2011, NEPI has provided more than $ 6 million to nursing programs in Lesotho to equip Basotho nurses with the skills they need to provide high-quality care.  Training and supporting nurses is a simple concept with a very big impact. The results are evident across Lesotho’s healthcare landscape.

NEPI supports the development of innovative curricula and educational models that prepare nurses to practice their skills in both community and facility-based settings.  Perhaps most importantly, NEPI helps bring high-quality care to Basotho in the countryside, where access to health care has long been a challenge.

Lesotho is the only country that has hosted both a significant PEPFAR program and a substantial health initiative funded by the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). This has created a unique opportunity for collaboration between the Government of Lesotho and the U.S. Government in the health sector. PEPFAR’s annual budget averages $34 million. And, under MCC’s recently completed first Compact, the United States invested more than $143 million dollars in health initiatives, as part of an overall Compact amount of $363 million. Together, these two programs – PEPFAR and MCC — made an unparalleled investment in Lesotho’s health infrastructure.  MCC and MCA-Lesotho refurbished 155 health facilities throughout Lesotho and ensured thousands of Basotho in rural areas had access to clean drinking water.

The second program of which we are very proud is the U.S. Peace Corps. Peace Corps Volunteers have been an integral part of our fight against HIV/AIDS and they are our government’s most visible presence in the rural areas of the Kingdom. Today there are 110 Peace Corps Volunteers and trainees in Lesotho, all of whom take an active role in helping their host communities confront HIV/AIDS.  Since Lesotho’s independence, the Kingdom has hosted more than 2,200 Peace Corps Volunteers.  The U.S. government is proud to support these men and women who live, work, and form lifelong friendships with communities in some of the most remote areas of Lesotho.

That is why programs such as NEPI are vital to Lesotho’s future. Once recruited and placed, the members of today’s graduating class will help answer a critical need. You and your colleagues around the country will carry the predominant responsibility in ensuring:

    1. That patients who come to the country’s clinics get adequate time and attention from the nursing staff;
    2. That parents understand the importance of routine vaccinations and know when to bring their children to the local clinic;
    3. That expectant mothers receive good pre-natal care and trained medical assistance during delivery, so that the number of preventable deaths in childbirth can be reduced to zero;
    4. That mothers, fathers and other caregivers understand their children’s nutritional needs in order to reverse the high rates of malnutrition and wasting among young Basotho children;
    5. That illness and infection are identified promptly to reduce child mortality and eliminate preventable deaths;
    6. That HIV-positive expectant mothers know how to protect their children from exposure to HIV; and
    7. That young people understand how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases.

Under the leadership of Honorable Minister Dr. Pinky Manamolela, the Ministry of Health’s initiatives to recruit, train, and retain Basotho nurses are, quite literally, a matter of life and death.  NEPI and other pre-service training investments have increased the annual number of nursing graduates from 150 in 2010 to 500 in 2014. Since 2010, Lesotho has produced more than 2000 graduates through various pre-service training programs.

That is an impressive achievement, but there is clearly more to be done. And you can continue to count on the United States as a committed and reliable partner in this essential effort.

Allow me to close by again congratulating today’s graduates. With your skills and expertise, with your dedication to providing respectful and attentive care to those in need, you have the power not only to make a huge difference in the lives of many people, but to transform your country in the process. I hope you will all enjoy long and successful careers.  Your skills and talents have never been more urgently needed.

Khotso, Pula, Nala.