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Faculty recruitment for a Portuguese-language optometry program: experiences and challenges of The Mozambique Eye Care Project
Ms Diane Wallace BOptom, MPA
University of KawZulu Natal, South Africa
The Mozambique Eyecare Project (MEP) is a unique institutional collaboration in a programme for the development, implementation and evaluation of a regional optometry training model for Portuguese-speaking Africa. The Project was initiated in February 2009 with the first cohort of undergraduate students beginning classes at Lúrio University in Northern Mozambique. This is the first Portuguese-language optometry program in Africa, and with no professionally qualified optometrists locally, faculty had to be recruited from outside the continent. To date, nine optometrists, either Portuguese or Spanish speaking, were recruited from Spain, Portugal and Colombia. This paper will present data related to recruitment of faculty, their interest in joining the Project, experiences and challenges on the Project as well as benefits gained from the experience.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five expatriate faculties who spent time on the Project between May 2010 and October 2011. Data from all nine faculty was qualitatively analysed for common themes around faculty experiences on the Project.
Faculty were recruited though professional networks, website postings or word-of-mouth. Five of the nine faculty were Spanish-natives, two Columbian with Spanish as a first language, and two were Portuguese nationals. Only three of the nine faculty had prior university teaching experience, with eight of the nine having post-graduate qualifications. Of these, five were Masters qualified and three had PhD qualifications. Recruits signed either a one year renewable contract or offered short-term availability of one to three months. Only one recruit has extended the one year contract with the majority of stays being three months or less. Experience on the project was described as professionally stimulating and rewarding. The difference in scope of practice, skills and regulation of optometry in the countries represented by faculty presented some challenges in delivering a unified curriculum approach which may be different to one’s own training or experience. Locally, bureaucratic structures and difficulties with transportation were some of the frustrations experienced.
As optometry is still a developing profession in Portugal, it is difficult to find Portuguese-language optometrists with university teaching experience who are available for long term contributions to such challenging assignments. All faculty noted, however, the personal satisfaction and sense of contribution from working on the project, despite the challenges. Those who had never worked in academia or development before, also acquired a new skills set they could carry into their future careers.
Wallace, D.: Faculty Requirement for a Portuguese Language Optometry Program: Experience and Challenges of the Mozambique Eye Care Project. Poster. European Academy of Optics and Optometry, Dublin, 2012