Higher education deputy minister Becky Ndjoze-Ojo says the government spent over N$230 million in the past five years on foreign-trained medical students whose qualifications “cannot be authenticated”.
From 2014 to 2018, the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) awarded study loans to over 450 persons studying medicine and dentistry in foreign countries.
Ndjoze-Ojo revealed this in the National Assembly on Thursday while responding to questions from Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Nico Smit.
Smit had asked how much the government had spent to train the so-called underqualified foreign-trained medical graduates.
The PDM last month called for a commission of inquiry to investigate the foreign-trained medical graduates’ issue after only two out of 206 passed a pre-internship evaluation test.
Those who failed took their case against the Health Professions Councils of Namibia (HPCN) to the High Court.
The council’s registrar, Cornelius Weyulu, told the High Court in an affidavit that medical graduates trained in eastern Europe were “poorly trained”, and that most of them did not meet basic requirements for entry into Unam’s school of medicine.
Ndjoze-Ojo said in 2014 alone, 313 students were awarded study loans amounting to N$44,7 million by NSFAF.
According to her, students were awarded loans in 2014 without verifying whether they met the minimum requirements, nor the credibility of the institutions they intended to study at.
She blamed this error on an old NSFAF policy, which allowed “whoever was admitted at whatever institution of higher learning and with whatever points” to be awarded a study loan.
The only award condition used at the time was that the student had an admission letter, and “that is where most of the problems emanated from”.
“These students were not sent nor subjected to our scrutiny of minimum criteria of admission of 25 points then and 35 points now. Moreover, the National Qualifications Authority (NQA) did not vet these universities, and therefore their qualifications cannot be verified and authenticated,” she stated.
She added that although stringent funding requirements were introduced in 2014 to only award pupils who had 35 points, the move came a “little too late” because the bulk of the students were already funded and about to graduate “with qualifications that cannot be authenticated”.
The students studied in countries such as Algeria, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Cuba, the Czech Republic, China, India, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine and the USA.
She said some students went abroad at their own expense during the years 2011/12 and 2013/14. According to her, these students only applied for NSFAF loans after they were stranded abroad, and unable to pay for their expenses any more.
The deputy minister further emphasised that every person who underwent medical training outside Namibia was subjected to a pre-registration evaluation process before being considered for registration as a medical and dental practitioner.
She added that the recognition of qualifications upon completion was “intrinsically linked to meeting the requirements and criteria at entry level”.
Ndjoze-Ojo, therefore, said for those whose qualifications cannot be authenticated, the higher education ministry, the health ministry, the NQA, HPCN and NSFAF were collaborating to “assess the situation to develop strategies to facilitate the onward process of improved coordinated planning, and where relevant, further retraining and internship placements are necessary”.
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Publish date : 2019-03-11 09:25:16