BY OLUREMI OMOWAIYE
The medical doctors of the UNIOSUN extraction, who left the shores of Nigeria, over four years ago, recently returned to the country having passed distinctively, the 2017 KROK 2 Ukraine National Medical Examinations. OLUREMI OMOWAIYE writes.
Osun State University, which was established in 2006 by the Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration, started with six campuses spread across the length and breadth of Osun, as a matter of compulsion and necessity which is a statutory norm for such venture in the tertiary education sector, the Nigeria University Commission (NUC) must give approval and license for the takeoff and all the courses must be fully accredited by the same body. Suffice to say, they sought and got the needed nod before the admission of students into the university commenced which was why JAMB recognised UNIOSUN. Alas, the path to freedom doesn’t end there; there are other regulatory bodies for selected courses in Nigeria whose supervisory roles are mandatory for the unhindered operation of academic activities in some departments and faculties of any university community.
Such professional bodies like COREN for the overall accreditation of the faculty of engineering and technology, the Nigeria Law School must be intimately carried along and must give due approval for the Law students before it can be admitted into any of its campuses nationwide, and the peculiarity of this assertion is the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) and Leeds University, Ibadan law students who were denied admission into the Law School. More importantly for any medical school is the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) which regulates and administers the curriculum processes of mandatory clinical aspects of all medical students in Nigeria in terms of infrastructure, capacity and capability, qualified and competent personnel and the most crucial, a well-equipped teaching hospital to cater for the practical exposure of the doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other para-medical students in training; this is the status quo from ages and time immemorial. Unfortunately, the Osun State University College of health sciences doesn’t have a teaching hospital.
The students, comprising of three sets (those admitted in 2007, 2008 & 2009 ) were stalked and stagnated, they were equally frustrated and the ambition of realising their childhood dreams was diminishing and being eroded away on a daily basis, on a subject notion they are not to be held culpable. Days rolled into weeks, months and years passed by; this was the unpleasant story when Aregbesola took over the reins of power in November 2010. As a responsive and responsible government which totally believes in the noble ideals, philosophy and ideology of the Late sage, Obafemi Awolowo that a lifetime empowerment starts with a liberated mind which stands on the bedrock of qualitative education, a committee was put in place, chaired by the deputy governor who doubled at the time as the commissioner for Education. Otunba Grace Titilayo Laoye – Tomori, with other members like the then vice chancellor of UNIOSUN, permanent secretary from the Ministries of Education and Health, Provost, College of Health Sciences UNIOSUN , Dr. Simeon Afolayan and many other notable academics and practicing physicians with a clear mandate to salvage the academic pursuit of these innocent medical students.
One of the options explored by the committee was an approach to all the fully accredited teaching hospitals in Nigeria for consideration to absorb the UNIOSUN medical students for their clinical training, it must be stated expressly here that none rejected the plea as they were gladly willing to assist but were heavily constrained by the quota system in numerical strength allocated to each institution by the MDCN as they also have challenges controlling the absorption of students into the clinical stages. As such, no single Nigerian university had the capacity to even take as low as five of the stranded students. Another option was to upgrade the state General Hospital, Asubiaro, Osogbo into a full-fledged teaching hospital; it was a thorough painstakingly decisive and laudable decision, findings later revealed that it was not achievable because, when the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), an education facility owned by the Oyo and Osun States government went through similar path in the late 90s`and early part of the millennium (2000 – 2001) after about five sets of medical students were stuck on the same ladder and could not proceed or graduate, solely because the teaching hospital positioned to take them through the clinical practice was not accredited by MDCN. It took the effort and financial prowess of Chief Adebisi Akande, who was the governor of Osun State to cough out well over N1.5bn for the purchase of medical equipment and upgrade the then General Hospital, Osogbo to get the LAUTECH teaching hospital the required license and accreditation.
In retrospect and coming to terms with the present day reality, it was observed that an initial N4bn or more would be needed to upgrade the General Hospital, Asubiaro or any other hospital within the state of Osun to a teaching hospital of no little mean standard. This challenge will also come with other encumbrances of more personnel to be employed and operational cost which will include but not limited to salary and emoluments of staffers which may run into N200million or more on a monthly basis as both the LAUTECH teaching hospital Osogbo and Ogbomoso’s monthly wage bill stood at N576million as at year 2012.
The last option open to the committee set up by the government of the state of Osun was to send the medical students abroad for clinical training, many countries with similar or more advanced curriculum in medicine were considered: USA, UK, Cuba, China, Georgia, Poland, Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine. A final decision was reached to send the students to Ukraine which was borne out of the necessity owing to their pedigree over the decades in the field of medicine in the entire Eastern Europe which spans over 200years and the reasonable fees.
The choice of Kharkiv National University is apt, and a testament on the premium Aregbesola placed on qualitative education, till date there is no iota of regrets whatsoever as it was and will remain the best choice in all the list of universities available for the modern age medicine. Amongst other factors, may I add that the university that trained our students turned doctors was established in 1804 and remains one of the best in Europe. It is the only university in Ukraine that has trained and employed three Nobel Prize winners. Elie Mechnikov was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and during his time at V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, he completed his four-year degree in just two years. Lev Landau was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics and lectured at the university between 1932 and 1937. The final Nobel Prize winner who studied at the university was Simon Kuznets, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Africa till date has not produced a single noble laureate in Medicine and Physics.
It is one of the oldest higher educational institutions in Eastern Europe and the second oldest in Ukraine after the University of Lviv. Since its foundation, the University has graduated over 130,000 students.
More interestingly, in the course of this journey, at two different times, both at the initial and during their course of study, the issue of state of origin of the medical students enjoying the full scholarship grants were raised but was quenched by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who, over time has demonstrated his resolve for regional integration and more importantly sees himself as a Nationalist who should breed the cycle and circle of Unity irrespective of your colour, race, ethnicity or religion, these are core values of a Pan African fundamentalist who believes in the black man race that discrimination is worse than terrorism. Some of the 85 students were not indigenes of the state of Osun, yet the governor insisted that none of the stranded medical students must be dropped using any non – insignificant parameter. There were students from neighbouring south western states, south east including one foreigner who is not even a citizen of Nigeria. On the second occasion, after the dwindling allocation of resources which negatively took its toll on all states of the federation which necessitated Osun to introduce a modulated salary scale for civil servants in which only about 65 percent of the state workers earn full salary, it also slowed down the rate of ongoing infrastructure and it was becoming very tough to meet the financial obligation of the medical students, it was observed that most states in Nigeria, especially oil producing states, withdrew totally from the sponsorship on all their students abroad. In fact, some students returned home mid-way into their programme, it was opined that government should only pay for her indigenes in the Ukraine university, yet again, Mr. Governor rebuffed the suggestion and assured that we would cross the bridge unscratched, and we did as the scholarship grant was solely financed by the government.
As regards the question of returning back to Nigeria for further training and examination, it is very important to stress it explicitly that they are now certified medical doctors and can practice anywhere in the world, having been inducted into the professional circle of physicians but there are rules and regulation guiding the ethics and practice of Medicine in Nigeria which must be adhered strictly to. It is also important to know that all those that studied Medicine in all Countries (other than Nigeria) who are hitherto called foreign medical graduates are required to write compulsory assessment examination which is a mandatory and statutory pre-registration prerequisite of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) for them to secure license to practices in Nigeria. This year’s Assessment Examination comes up in November 2017 and the doctors are more than prepared to overcome and climb this final hurdle.
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