Foreign graduates protest 'unfair' tests

15 February 2019 | Health

Dozens of foreign-trained medical and dentistry graduates took to the streets yesterday to protest against a pre-internship exam which they claim is unfair and discriminatory.

One of the graduates, Giselinde Aluvilu, said the group was not only protesting for themselves, but for a country in dire need of medical staff.

“We are not here just for ourselves as medical graduates, but also for our colleagues who are already working long hours and are overworked, with one doctor attending to more than 20 patients. It's unacceptable.”

She said the group, who all failed to pass a November pre-internship evaluation required to register in Namibia, “do not understand this maltreatment if we came to help our Namibian people”.

The dozens of graduates who marched yesterday to hand over a petition to Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila are part of a group of 205 foreign-trained medical graduates, and 30 dentistry graduates, who failed to pass a compulsory pre-internship evaluation in November last year.

Martin Kambala, another graduate, said they had tried on several occasions to engage the Medical and Dental Council, but to no avail.”

He said the petition was signed by more than 238 graduates “who fell victim of this practice by the council”.

The graduates obtained their qualifications in foreign countries, among them China, Russia, Ukraine and South Africa.



Quality control

In a statement issued yesterday, the Medical and Dental Council explained that the evaluation was set up in 2016 for graduates who “underwent educational programmes not approved by the Council, and therefore the standard of such programmes is unknown to the Namibian authority.”





Of the 207 medical graduates who wrote the evaluation, only two passed, and none of the 30 foreign-trained dental graduates.

Fifteen dental graduates and 42 medical graduates did qualify for a supplementary pre-internship evaluation, though.

“The Council has the responsibility to regulate the practice of the medical and dental professions and protect the public,” the statement said.

Sixty-two graduates, who did not pass a single domain out of the six domains tested, were advised to enrol for a practical 12-month training programme to bring them on par with national standards before taking the pre-internship exam again.

The council added that it had received an appeal challenging the test results and the competency of the examiners and requesting that the November exam results be nullified.

The same graduates have also turned to the High Court with an urgent application, which is to be heard today.

The council emphasised that it was common practice worldwide for foreign-trained graduates to undergo local evaluations to ensure they met national standards.



Paid for by the nation

The petition handed over yesterday says the graduates are not opposed to an evaluation, but it must be “transparent, smooth and fair.”

They claim the evaluation was set up to “deliberately” fail them.

“The high failure rate was therefore not caused by our incompetence but by the unfairness of the nature of the examination, being the number of questions, the inclusion of additional domains and the short time allocated,” they say.

They add they trained for years at the taxpayer's expense and the government should not to waste that money “and throw us on the street.”

They further point out that locally trained medical graduates are not compelled to take the exam, which they claim is discriminatory.



Let them learn

A mother, who joined the protest yesterday, said the authorities were turning their backs on the graduates, whose studies were taxpayer funded and also put steep financial demands on their families to support them.

“Then they come back and are treated like this,” the mother, who did not wish to be identified, said.

She added that instead of wasting valuable talent, and blaming a lack of funds, the government should allow the graduates to start internships to support overworked staff at hospitals and clinics.

“Let them work for their people, for the Namibian nation. Have them work for free, as long as they gain experience and look after patients,” she said.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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