In the feedback we get from students after completing their placements in East Africa, a lot tell us that the biggest challenge they faced was overcoming the local language barrier to communicate with patients. One option we're considering is to offer an intensive Swahili language course that students could choose to do during their first week - and we want your views.
English is quite widely spoken in Tanzania and Zanzibar, and most hospital staff (including all our Clinical Supervisors) have a good conversational level. However, a large proportion of the patients you'll encounter speak only Swahili and their own tribal language. Communication between doctors/nurses and patients in therefore normally in Swahili.
We already offer basic Swahili lessons free of charge at all Work the World houses twice a week, and these have proved very successful. No one expects students to become fluent, but understanding the basics can enable you to get much more involved at the hospital and is a great way to impress your Supervisor and encourage them to give you more opportunities.
The course we are considering offering would probably be three hours a day for five days, with a mixture of small group tuition from an expert teacher and practice sessions to make it as relevant and fun as possible. The syllabus would be tailored specifically for healthcare students, focussing on the basics of the language and vocabulary you would find useful in a hospital setting.