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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.
We have numerous significant partnerships including funders, the Department of Health, the community but the most important in terms of implementing the programme is the local hospital. Together with the rural hospital, we identify, train and support rural youth to become qualified health professionals, who in turn commit to work at the local hospital for their contract period.
The hospitals are instrumental in identifying, training and supporting members of the local youth on their quest to become health professionals. To ensure that this process goes as smoothly as possible certain important processes have to be in place.
The UYDF has produced 185 graduates and currently supports 205 students studying a wide range of health science disciplines - Medicine, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy, Occupational Therapy, Nutrition, Biomedical Technology, Social Work, Optometry, Dental Therapy, Dentistry, Environmental Health, Speech Therapy, Social Work, Nursing, Radiology and Psychology.
We believe the success of the programme is due to the comprehensive student mentoring system that provides students with academic and social mentoring throughout the course of their studies. The impact of the mentoring system can be seen in the pass rates of our students. A 93 % university pass rate was achieved in 2015 and 94% in 2016.