School of Medicine ‘gasps’ for breath
So far, the school has students for years one up to three. So while it takes five years to train a medical doctor, the SOM students have said the UB told them the institution is not ready to offer courses for fourth and fifth year and sought to be given what they termed a “gap year” to allow UB time to recruit lecturers and prepare for the teaching curriculum for the last two years.
“The question is: what will we be doing for the whole year whilst the UB is looking for lecturers and a curriculum? Besides they have been looking for lecturers since we started first year, so what guarantee is there that now they will find them?” a third year medical student told Mmegi.
For a long time the medical students have complained of a litany of problems like an exodus and shortage of teaching staff. However, when contacted for comment, the Minister of Education and Skills Development Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi said they have been seized with the UB issues for weeks now, adding that “yes we are concerned especially that students are not going to school, but at the moment we are waiting for advice from the UB senate which is meeting on Friday”.
Another third year student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said by last year about 15 lecturers left while only two were replaced.
Lately, the students have complained that though third year students are on their clinical placement phase, during which they are supposed to spend time at clinics, there is no coordinator to facilitate this process. This means that they are just on their own unsupervised.
“There is no coordination at all. We are just learning without direction, it’s like groping in the dark,” said one student.
Medical students are supposed to use models and cadavers to experiment on how to operate on patients and other exercises.
However, students query that there is no equipment, thus including models, adding that the cadavers are unavailable and worse, Botswana has no legislation on handling of cadavers.
Before cadavers could be used for experiments, there should be a law guiding this. The students have also revealed that they are still attending classes at Kgogolamoko House, a warehouse at the Station Mall.
Other problems at the UB include the issue of supplementary examinations stoppage where it is said that after they were discontinued, more than 1,000 students failed and had to stop their studies. Prior to the stoppage, which was effected last year, scholars could re-sit for supplementary examinations. Students are up in arms over such issues. They went on strike on Tuesday, which led to the campus being closed.
Responding to Mmegi questions on the issues raised by the students, UB spokesperson Mhitshane Reetsang confirmed that the management has closed the university after the students went on a rampage. She said that the UB senate would meet tomorrow (today) and look at the students’ complaints.
She admitted that the university is concerned by the large number of students who failed, but added that at the moment they cannot blame students or lecturers, adding that they are waiting for a full report to find out what went wrong.
Regarding the issue of the gap year, Reetsang said she just learnt about it from the students but promised that the management and the UB senate will know by Friday when reports will be presented on the SOM problems. “How do we have a degree programme with a curriculum that is incomplete?” she said.
She however, admitted that there is a shortage of teaching staff at SOM and that there is no coordinator for clinical placement, “but we have already started recruiting,” she said.
As regards cadavers, Reetsang said she understands the medical students are getting impatient, but should rest assured the UB is trying to see what else they can use instead of the cadavers for their experiments.
“Yes they will not get to practice on cadavers. We did a presentation, especially with former vice-chancellor Bojosi Otlhogile who went around the country asking Batswana to consider leaving their bodies for science,” she said.