Midwifery Education in South Africa

Midwifery education in South Africa goes back to the early 1960’s. During that period in order to become a midwife a person first had to qualify as a nurse and then subject themselves to a period of training as a midwife.There was a three year nursing diploma course offered followed by a one year course in midwifery.This format was the norm for many years. Young women were first trained as nurses and it was compulsory at the time to complete midwifery traiing even if your willl never work as in a midwife setting.

Midwiffery clearly was seen as second to nursing with the doctors being the mainstay of birthing, the control over what we do and cannot do.The nurses ran the antenatal clinics, dispensing medication and doing basic medical procedures normal deliveries.This freed the doctors up to attend to the more lucrative issues. Doctors were called for complicated or surgical intervention. The nurses were left overworked and underpaid for many years.

The above picture in South Africa is the norm, tired and overworked nurses and clinics that are too small and overcrowded, and severely understaffed. Sometimes there is just a screen between women giving birth. Every person can hear every coversation which is suppose to be private and confidentail but it is not. It a wonder that African women prefer to give birth at home with midwives and avoid the clinics and hospitals completely. In private hospitals, babies are generally delivered by doctors, not nurses,

The nursing curriculim was changed in 1986 when the four-year course was implemented. So, since then the most prestigious route to become a nurse in South Africa is a four-year degree, offered by several universities and universities of technology and regulated by the Department of Higher Education.

The four year degree course was implemented in the United States because nurses are the only healthcare professional without a degree. The decision was made that all new nurse entries should be a degree. At the time 15 countries signed up. South Africa tried to be on board as well but unfortunately, our nurses graduate with a four year Diploma in general nursing, community health, psychiatry and midwife. The four-year degree courses (BCur, BA Cur, BSc Cur) are offered at most university in South Africa.

The degree nurses do the same course at university level and both degree en diploma nurses are callled profesional nurses whereas everywhere in the world nurses are called registered nurses (RN). Forty years ago the American Nurses Association (ANA) issued it’s position paper making the bachelors degree in nursing (BSN) mandatory for entry into the profession. This is happening slowly allover the globe. All new nurses in England starting from 2013 will have to be degree educated. Diploma courses will be fased out slowly. Countries like Canada, Australia require a degree entry for all new nurse applicants.

The South African system of training has to be upgraded since the current training system and curriculum is inadequate.The results can be seen in the high HIV rates, maternal and infant death statistics.The way the training of nurses in the US is structured is completely different and geared to cope with the problems we encounter in todays world. South Africa needs to upgrade the criteria in it’s nursing education. The nurse-midwives of South Africa especialy those in the public health system are overworked and understaffed. Nuses are the largest category of healthcare professionals. The training of nurses has been neglected and need change.


Midwifery Education in South Africa — 25 Comments

    • Midwifery in South Africa is part of the basic four year nurse training and is not taught as a separate entity. Midwifery training is included in the four-year college course. The midwife in South Africa practices in the areas of primary health care, hospitals, clinics, mobile clinics, homes and MOU’s. Most midiwves in hospitals do not know what a natural birth is apart that all births should be in a hospital.

      To bring on change a new program called Advance Midwifery was introduced. The advance midwifery program was initiated in the 1980’s by the previous government. The advance midwifery program is a two year program if still is actually a midwifery program which should have been the initial program. That was a waste of money!

      The problem is that nurse-midwives are more like obstetrical philosophies, technology, and many actually view themselves as part of the medical establishment. Midwifery programs that I like is the British one. All programs are three-year direct entry programs that lead to a Bachelor’s degree in midwifery.

      There is a definite push to a direct midwifery program. The school of nursing is working with the WHO to develop a university-based midwifery education at the University of Western Cape, South Africa. We should look at other countries. Bangladesh also has begun implementing a three-year, direct-entry midwifery programme. What is wrong with South Africa?

    • Is there any place in east london where i can study midwife or through post or long distance learning?

  1. hello
    i’m a new student midwife and i would like to learn more from you.i also need to have a knowledge about effective study techniques in midwifery

  2. Is there any place in east london where i can study midwife or through post or long distance? I am a intermediate life support paramedic

  3. hi there

    i am a young single mother and i am looking to study furthere. i am looking to do a course in midwifery. i am looking for a place in South Africa to study.

    • Please do find a nursing school in your area. Unfortunately South Africa does not have a direct entry midwifery degree. All midwives must first become a nurse then do midwifery. No wonder we have a such a shortage of midwives in our country because of the long raod that they must follow. The small African country Benin has a 3 years direct entry midwifery program. What is wrong with South Africa. Are we that behind that we cannot catch up with the rest of the world. Nursing and midwifery should never be the same, it is two different careers completely. Those that want to become midwives should not be trained as nurses first.

  4. I think midwifery programme in most universities in South Africa it has been develop as student can do more research and practice in particular become professional midwife with high understanding about what the midwife have to do during different activities or stages (assist women) in midwifery or hospital. Is compulsory that midwife must practice and improve her behavior by update her knowledge and experience

  5. Hi, my child is due to complete her diploma in midwifery in Ghana in August this year. She wishes to pursue a degree in midwifery in SA. Could you tell me the minimum entry qualifications to enable her enrol as well as a list of institutions that offer the course? Thanks

  6. HI I am a professional nurse with a 4 years diploma but I need to advance with midwifery, in south Africa no special school for that , no distance learning , we are far from curbing maternal, neonatal mortality rate

  7. Hi!

    I am really interested in studying midwifery.How do i apply end where are the nearest campuses or schools allocated to attain application forms?

  8. I’m a40year old with diploma and experience in general nursing.I’m declined to be a private paying student midwife in government institutions due to my age as they cater for 18-35year olds.What are my options as my working institution has a long list.They send 1 student a year and I am number 6on the list

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