Faculty of Health Sciences

History of Faculty of Health Sciences

Walter Sisulu University (WSU) came into existence on 1 July 2005, arising from the merger of the former University of Transkei, Eastern Cape Technikon and Border Technikon. The establishment of WSU completed the restructuring of the South African Higher Education landscape in terms of the Higher Education Act no 101 of 1997 as amended. It is therefore a new comprehensive university that offers a range of programmes from certificates to diplomas, degrees and post-graduate programmes. Strategically located within the Eastern Cape Province, WSU straddles a vast spectrum of the urban and rural divide of this region. This context has then led the university to define its NICHE area as that of Rural Development and Urban Renewal.

WSU has four (4) campuses as follows: Buffalo City, Butterworth, Queenstown, and Mthatha (Head Office). WSU has 11 faculties with student population of 24,000 and a staff complement of approximately, 2,000.

The Faculty was established in 1985 with the introduction of MBChB programme. At this time, the Department of Nursing, which was already operating under the Faculty of Economic Sciences, was relocated to the newly established Faculty of Medicine. The Department of Health Promotion was established in 1989 as a Department of Health Education. Initially the focus was on undergraduate education and training and postgraduate programmes were later on introduced. To date the Faculty offers a range of programmes from certificates to undergraduate diplomas, bachelor degrees, honours, postgraduate diplomas, masters, Ph D’s and MD’s (Doctor of Medicine). The Faculty has a Medical Library which has a Skills Laboratory and Computer Learning Centre with
Telemedicine facilities. In collaboration with the Eastern Cape Department of Health, the Faculty has established a Regional Training Centre (RTC) for HIV and AIDS in 2004.

The Faculty has been recommended as a WHO collaborating centre for PBL/CBE. It is a full and active member of The Network: Towards Unity for Health, and hosted the 1996 International Network Conference in Durban. The Faculty is now recognised by its peers internationally as one of eight (8) Medical Schools in the world that are champions of social accountability in health professions education. These medical schools have formed an organisation called the Training for Health Equity Network (THEnet). The Faculty of Health Sciences at WSU is the only Faculty of Health Sciences in Africa that is a member of this organisation.

The Faculty of Health Sciences has its Headquarters at Mthatha Campus but has an Academic Health Service Complex that spreads throughout the Eastern Cape Province including all levels of health facilities in the Eastern Cape Region (Mthatha), Central Region (East London) and Western Region (Port Elizabeth).The teaching platform is further enhanced by the establishment of Health Resource Centres at Mthatha, East London, Port Elizabeth and Queenstown. Health Resource Centresareof different sizes are currently being set in various health facilities in the province. These Health Resource Centres are strategically built next to hospitals. The purpose for establishing these Health Resource Centres is to create an academic environment throughout the Eastern Cape Province so that students are taught properly by joint staff that has access to library and internet facilities, to enable the three functions of an academic institution to be fulfilled adequately, i.e. teaching & learning, research and service to the people.

The Faculty of Health Sciences is regarded as the flagship of this university. Its niche area is rural health, based on its context. This has made this Faculty to be committed to learning and teaching in the community from District Hospitals to Community Health Centres, Clinics and patient homes (i.e. district learning complexes). Problem-Based Learning is introduced in first year and continues to be the main learning strategy up to final year. This is the only University in South Africa that offers small group Problem-Based Learning tutorials in clinical years. Learning in the community (i.e. Community-Based Learning) is also introduced early in the curriculum and the time spent in the community is progressively increased up to final year. Community-Based Learning in this Faculty is strengthened by the establishment of community partnerships around Mthatha and this led to the establishment of four (4) purpose-built Community Health Centres around Mthatha. The Clinical Associate Programme is thus modelled through these two powerful learning strategies, Problem-Based Learning and Community-Based Education. More than 90% of the curriculum for the Clinical Associate Programme is taught in District Learning Complexes, which is where the graduates of this programme will practise after completion.