Media statement by KZN Health MEC, Ms Nomagugu Simelane, on the occasion of the graduation of 1 302 nurses, at the Royal Showgrounds, PMB

  • Newly graduated nurses urged to respect patients;
  • Continue studying to further develop themselves and help the nation
  • KZN College of Nursing registers improved pass masks, with Benedictine, RK Khan and Madadeni Hospital ruling the roost

20 September 2022

Indeed, we are extremely pleased that this day has finally come. And you now get to reap the handsome fruits of your hard academic work, especially during the past two years, which have been one of the toughest times that our country - and indeed the world - has ever had to face.

The meaning of graduation:

Generally, graduation signals the culmination of all the many hours of hard work, sleepless nights, and sacrifices that you have put into gaining your qualification.

More than that, it is an affirmation of your high intellectual capacity.

But, for us in the healthcare sector, your graduation carries even much more significance.

It re-assures us that, with you on board, we are much more stronger and better-placed to perform what is arguably the most profoundly important job in the world: saving people's lives.

Given our painful history and legacy of racial injustice and inequality, we also should not ignore the fact that many of you are the very first ones from your families to graduate.

In fact, even if you come from a family that is relatively better-off, your graduation becomes a validation of the virtues of education and hard work. It becomes an inspiration and an encouragement to children who look up to you.

Banibuka bese bethi: "One day, nami ngiyoligqoka ijazi, ngifane nalowa sisi wakwamakhelwane!"

That is how we can build our being positive role models to young people.

Therefore, wearing a graduation cap and gown as you've done should never, ever be taken as a minor thing.

So, we congratulate you for having the hunger and drive to challenge and educate yourselves, so that you can perform and contribute at a much higher level than before.

Saluting nurses for being on the frontlines of the battle against Covid-19

But at the same time, we know that you're not made of steel.

You are mortals, just like all of us.

Which is why it's important that you remember to protect and take care of yourselves, at all times.

As we witnessed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses, by virtue of being on the frontlines of the battle, were often forced to compromise their own health and safety.

It is therefore highly regrettable that our war against the COVID-19 pandemic cost us the lives of so many of our valued health workers.

On behalf of Government and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, we say, may their souls rest in peace - especially those foot soldiers who died with their boots on, and became casualties of COVID - 19.

We know and understand the devastation that their deaths have caused to those they left behind.

We send our deepest love and sympathies to all their families.

Their loss is, indeed, our loss.

The Freedom Charter:

It is highly critical that nurses must fully grasp the fact that Government has a mandate and an obligation to fulfil, as stipulated in the Freedom Charter

During the people's assembly, in Kliptown in 1955, the Freedom Charter resolved that:

  • A preventive health scheme shall be run by the state;
  • Free medical care and hospitalisation shall be provided for all, with special care for mothers and young children; and that
  • The aged, the orphans, the disabled and the sick shall be cared for by the state.

It therefore goes without saying that nurses are pivotal in the realisation of these aspects of the Freedom Charter; and that they must be mindful of what's expected of them, if these noble ideals are to be realised.

The significance and impact of this graduation for the people of KwaZulu-Natal

As we once again welcome you to this profession of revolutionary nurses like oMam' Albert Sisulu, Mam' Charlotte Maxeke, and Mam' Victoria Mxenge, we want to remind you that nursing is not just a job, but a calling.

It is a noble profession, which requires the highest degree of professionalism, dedication and care, at all times.

The total number of nurses graduating today and tomorrow is 1302, and it is broken down as follows;

The total number of those graduating on Day 1 is 691, which is made up of 511 Professional Nurses, who have been trained for four years. They are comprehensively trained in Midwifery, Psychiatry and Community Nursing. We also have a further 180 graduates who have completed a two-year bridging course in General Nursing.

Tomorrow, we will have 611 graduates who are in-service nurses already in the employ of KZN DOH. Their list is broken down as follows:

  • 120 Midwife and Neonatal Nurse Specialists
  • 104 Primary Health Care (PHC) Nurse Specialists
  • 60 Child Nurse Specialists
  • 53 Operating Theatre Nurse Specialists
  • 51 Critical Care Nurse Specialists
  • 44 Emergency Nurse Specialists
  • 26 Ophthalmic Nurse Specialists
  • 19 Orthopaedic Nurse Specialists
  • 44 Mental Health Nurses
  • 90 Basic Midwifery Nurses


As a caring Government that invests in its own people, for its own people, we provide direct entry students a bursary in the form of a monthly stipend. This stipend assists them with the buying of books, meals, uniform, and accommodation, among other costs.

When it comes to our in-service nurses, they are released from work and seconded to the College to study, with full salary and all benefits. On completion of the course, they are translated into their new nursing category.

To illustrate the true extent and meaning of this investment that I'm talking about, training a Professional Nurse can cost the Department to up-to R500 000 over a period of four years.

This amount includes staff salaries (COEs), goods and services, transport, accommodation, bursary amount allocated to the student, tuition, textbooks, IT, and other equipment. These are some of the resources that are provided during training, clinical placement and education, and other sundry material.

The graduates from the four-year diploma programme are able to provide comprehensive professional nursing, for high-level service delivery, with multiple basic nursing qualifications from one programme, namely: General Nursing, Community Health Nursing, Psychiatric Nursing and Midwifery.

All of these competencies are critical for service delivery, as compared to other basic nursing programmes.

This programme is therefore cost-saving to the department in terms of enabling a comprehensive and multi-dimensional qualifications mix in one curriculum.

This then enables us to distribute our cohort of Professional Nurses more evenly across the province, in order to meet the challenges posed by the disease burden in our Province.

The multi-skilled nursing category is able to provide a comprehensive package of nursing services in any discipline, including general medicine, primary health and community healthcare centres, mental health care services and midwifery.

In fact, Midwifery is a compulsory basic requirement for nurses who want to advance to almost all post-basic nursing specializations, such as Primary Health Care (PHC), Advanced Midwifery and Neonatal Nursing, Trauma and Emergency Care, Critical Care, Child Health Care, to mention but a few.

Mental health nursing has also been identified as a much-needed qualification in health services and there is an increasing demand for this specialization so that nurses can be able to integrate mental health into the mainstream healthcare service packages.

Therefore, this graduation goes a long way in strengthening our Human Resource capacity, and also bodes well for our efforts to re-engineer Primary Health Care.

Congratulating the Benedictine, RK Khan and Madadeni Campuses for top academic performance

As a Department, we are extremely pleased to announce that our overall pass rate has improved from 94% two years ago, to 96% in 2021.

We are also extremely proud to inform you that Benedictine Campus has been the top-performing campus for 2021, with a pass rate of 100% in the last two examinations.

The second best-performing campus is RK Khan, with a pass rate of 99%; followed by Madadeni Campus in third place, with a pass rate of 98%.

I think they all deserve a sound of applause for their wonderful achievements.

Impact of Covid-19 on the nurse training programme/curriculum

As with every other sector, nurse training was not spared from the grossly disruptive effects of COVID-19.

During hard lockdown (level 5), face-to-face classroom learning and teaching was halted, in line with the regulations.

Our sharp and agile managers at the College of Nursing had to immediately employ alternative means of studying, in order to mitigate the impact of students inability to physically come to class.

Our interventions included the procurement of tablets, loaded with data for all under-graduate students. This improved online learning, facilitation, and communication between students and staff.

Our academic year had to be extended, in order for all students to recover lost learning and teaching time.

Some graduates in this cohort had to extend their training by two months at the end of 2020, eventually completing at the end of February 2021.

However, despite the intermittent disruption of contact sessions, work-integrated learning was not severely affected, as student nurses were able to complete most of their clinical learning at the hospitals.

Our students participated in the initial stages of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in line with their learning outcomes.

This experience added a lot of value to their training.

But we were only able to fully recover the lost learning and teaching time at the end of 2021.

So, as you can see, the past two years have not been easy at all. And this is what makes this graduation, all the more special.

Graduation of males bodes well for MEC's efforts to improve access to health for men:

When we delivered the Budget Speech for the 2022/23 financial year, one of the points that we made quite strongly is the elevation of Men's Health in the Province. This was, in fact, the re-affirmation of a commitment that we made when we assumed office in 2019.

We are of the view that it is high time men stopped dying due to diseases such as prostate cancer, male breast cancer, HIV and AIDS, diabetes, hypertension and many others that are either preventable, treatable or manageable - if they are detected early.

It is high time that men find it easy to visit healthcare facilities when they're suffering from Sexually-Transmitted Infections.

One of our key programmes in this regard, Isibaya Samadoda, together with Ikhosombe Lamajita, has been a great eye-opener when it comes to understanding attitudes that many men subscribe to when it comes to matters of health.

In our engagements, we have established that some men are too "shy" to speak openly to female health practitioners about certain ailments that they might have - especially those that may pertain to their sexual reproductive health.

That is why we have decided to begin a programme that will ultimately make at least 80 of our facilities "Men-Friendly."

In other words, they will cater to a number of specific healthcare needs that pertain to men, including:

  • Medical Male Circumcision;
  • Prostate Cancer Screening;
  • Sexual and Reproductive Health Management; and
  • Erectile dysfunction; including the management of early ejaculation.

In our latest Budget Speech, we made a commitment that from this financial year onwards, we are going to ensure that every local municipality has at least one facility - whether a CHC or 24 hour clinic - that is dedicated to the health of men. These facilities will have a male nurse during the day, and after hours.

We are therefore extremely pleased to note that no fewer than 284 of our graduates are men - with the vast majority of 133 of them having completed the four-year diploma in nursing.

The breakdown of male nursing graduates is as follows:

Programme No. Males Graduating
4 Year Year Diploma in Nursing 133
Bridging to Prof Nurse 29
Diploma in Child Health 4
Diploma in Critical Care 8
Diploma in Emergency Care 13
Advanced Diploma in Midwifery 16
Dip. In Operating Theatre Tech 10
Diploma in Ophthalmology 4
Diploma in Orthopaedics 8
Diploma in PHC 29
Diploma in Psychiatry 14
Diploma in Midwifery 16
Total Males over the 2 days Total: 284

Although 284 is not a large number in the greater scheme of things, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

In conclusion

Without taking up too much of your time, I wish to once again congratulate all of you, and appeal to you to go out there and make us proud.

There is no feeling that is greater or more rewarding than when you see the materialisation of the fruits of your hard labour.

This is indeed a wonderful occasion for us as the Department of Health, for your as nurses, and for your trainers; but most importantly for the public at large. They will be benefitting from your enhanced skills set, experience and generally improved capacity.

While we will continue to seek ways to improve nurses' working environment and conditions, we urge all of you to treat patients with care, dignity and respect at all times.

It's not all nurses who are unfriendly or act unprofessionally; but if one or two have a bad attitude, it then spoils the name and good work of all the other nurses. Do not be that single bad element who gives everyone else a bad name.

Always remember the commitments that you've made in the Nurses' Pledge, and stick to them.

And do not let your actions tarnish the image of your facility, our Department and the nursing profession at large.

We urge you to get out there and make yourselves, your families, and the community proud. Once again, congratulations."

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This page last edited on 29 November, 2022

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