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A HIDDEN HISTORY:
African Women and the
British Health Service

1930–2000

Gloria Amani

Gloria was born in 1944 in Malawi. Coming from a family of healthcare workers, Gloria moved to the UK in 1967. She worked for the NHS for seven years before moving back to Malawi, eventually establishing her own schools for children whose parents were busy nursing. She retired in 2005 and still lives in Malawi. In her interview, Gloria talks about her early life in Malawi, the challenges and positive experiences from her time in England, and her career after returning to Malawi.

MIGRATION

"There is a wider difference. To start with, we don’t have facilties for training nurses in Malawi. That was my observation even when I go to back in 1974, we had a long way to catch up to British standards, because of our facilities." 


"Even relating to staff, we were very understaffed, very. I remember, one time, I even spoke to one of the tutors at one of the big hospitals. She was Irish, but I remember her thinking we were just overstretched. They said the nurses were being cruel, I said yes, we are teaching them to be cruel, there is no way for us to manage the neighbourhood, with 30 patients, take deliveries at night. It’s not on."


CAREER

"I thought the hardest part was in training was to lose a young patient when we didn’t expect it. That’s all I can think of."


"I just have a passion for babies, and I thought of the working mothers who were leaving their babies home with a 15-year-old [nanny] and I had retired from nursing at this point so I thought I would put some of my nursing experience and expertise in a different way. I saw that there was a need here in Malawi to support mothers to be able to return to work but also know that their children are well looked after and taught by teachers. So I initially opened I opened a day-minder and when the children started reaching 4, 5 years old and their parents prompted me to open a primary school."


"At first it was a big job, but you know they sat me down and told me what they wanted out of the nursery school. We would meet and they would say ‘You can do do this, you can do that, you are a nurse, you can do it. Get a good headmaster, get good teachers, you’d be the administrator”. I threw my whole self into it as it was a big job actually – from constructing the buildings, hiring teachers and establishing a school governance structure. At times it seemed a little overwhelming but then a parent would ask how the school was coming along And that gave me the drive to keep going and open the primary school and then the secondary school. I had all the support from the parents."


ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE

"My advice to the young generation is they must think big, dream big and work harder than any generation before. Nothing comes from nothing, somebody say that, nothing comes from nothing, so we need to think big, work hard, use our time whilst we are still young. After the age of 60, you don’t have to worry about what you have done when you were 40. So that’s my advice, think big."

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