Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-1992)
An obvious choice (and the first here) is Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (née Scott), a Lagos-born nurse who was trained at the Nightingale School at St Thomas’ in the 1940s, did courses in midwifery, tropical nursing and the RCN’s sisters course (the latter on an award from the Nightingale School). Pratt led in the Nigerianisation of nursing in her country, that is, the appointment of Nigerians to replace (mainly) British appointees after Nigeria became independent (in 1960). In 1964 she became the first Nigerian matron of University College Hospital, Ibadan, and in 1965 became the first Nigerian to be appointed chief nursing officer for Nigeria. Other key posts she held are:
- commissioner for health
- co-founder of the Professional Association of Trained Nurses of Nigeria
- leader of the first Nigerian delegation to the International Council of Nurses Congress
- vice-president of the International Council of Nurses (first African in that post)
- president of the Professional Association of Trained Nurses of Nigeria
- first chair, Nursing Council of Nigeria
- president of the National Council of Women Societies of Nigeria
- co-founder of the Nigerian Nurse (a professional journal)
- nursing adviser to the Nigerian Red Cross.
She was made a fellow of the Royal College of Nursing (in 1979) and awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Ife (1981).
Pratt, like Nightingale, had wanted to be a nurse from childhood, but her family, as Nightingale’s, did not consider nursing a suitable career. She became a teacher first and only later trained as a nurse, when she married a pharmacist planning to become a doctor, with the intention of setting up a private hospital with him (which they did not do, although he became a doctor). One son was born in Nigeria before she undertook her nursing training, the second in Britain.
Pratt has but has not yet been honoured in Britain. Yet she spent many years in Britain, where she did all her training and worked in the NHS. She suffered from racial discrimination both in the UK (she was an early black nurse in the NHS) and Nigeria (in the latter case by a white medical superintendent who acknowledged her superior qualifications). Pratt is linked both to Nightingale (for inspiration), the Nightingale School (where she trained) and the Nightingale Fund (which gave her a scholarship)
There is a full biography of her remarkable career: Justus A. Akinsanya, An African “Florence Nightingale”: A Biography of Chief (Dr) Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (Ibadan: Vantage 1987) and a tribute by a colleague, Louisa M. Bell, “Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: Third Vice-President, International Council of Nurses,” International Nursing Review 14,5 (October 1967):7-10.