End En of road d for fo Med­i­cal al school sc

. . . as Zam­bia res­cues stranded Le­sotho School of Medicine stu­dents

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

ZAM­BIA’S Cop­per­belt Univer­sity School of Medicine has come to the res­cue of 31 Le­sotho School of Medicine (LSOM) stu­dents whose fu­ture had been thrown into dis­ar­ray af­ter it emerged the in­sti­tu­tion did not meet the re­quired in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

LSOM was es­tab­lished in 2014 with the hope of al­le­vi­at­ing Le­sotho’s dire short­age of med­i­cal doc­tors but an in­ces­sant fund­ing crisis saw the school fail­ing to at­tract rel­e­vant teach­ing staff and ul­ti­mately, pro­duce the ex­pected cur­ricu­lum.

A Qual­ity As­sur­ance Com­mit­tee of the Le­sotho Coun­cil on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion (CHE) sealed the col­lege’s fate last year when it rec­om­mended the school should not be ac­cred­ited to train doc­tors as it did not have the ca­pac­ity to pro­duce such spe­cialised per­son­nel.

Af­ter the rec­om­men­da­tion, LSOM stopped en­rolling its sec­ond in­take that was sup­posed to start on its pro­gramme in Septem­ber 2015.

The fu­ture of the first in­take had, mean­while, re­mained un­cer­tain amid re­ports the stu­dents had vir­tu­ally stopped turn­ing up for classes at the Na­tional Health Train­ing Cen­tre in Maseru where the lessons were be­ing held.

How­ever, a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MOU) signed be­tween Le­sotho and Zam­bia this week would see Cop­per­belt Univer­sity School of Medicine of­fi­cials vis­it­ing Maseru next week to as­sess the 31 stu­dents and en­roll the en­tire group.

Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Min­is­ter, Dr Ma­hali Phamotse, yes­ter­day con­firmed the im­pend­ing visit and said the as­sess­ment is set to de­ter­mine the level at which the stu­dents would be ad­mit­ted at the Zam­bian univer­sity.

“It is true we signed an MOU on ed­u­ca­tion with Zam­bia which will en­able our 31 sec­ond-year med­i­cal stu­dents to con­tinue with their stud­ies,” Dr Phamotse said yes­ter­day.

“A group of ex­perts from Cop­per­belt Univer­sity will be com­ing to Le­sotho next week to as­sess the stu­dents and see how far they had gone in their stud­ies.”

Dr Phamotse said the gov­ern­ment was jus­ti­fied in send­ing the learn­ers to Zam­bia as it was “an open se­cret” that the Le­sotho School of Medicine did not meet the re­quired stan­dards for it to qual­ify as a med­i­cal col­lege.

“We be­lieve send­ing them to Zam­bia is a good, prac­ti­cal and sen­si­ble de­ci­sion as the Le­sotho School of Medicine’s pro­grammes were not even ac­cred­ited by CHE,” the min­is­ter said.

Dr Phamotse said the LSOM was in no con­di­tion to pro­duce world-class doc­tors as it lacked equip­ment and lec­tur­ers.

“The lack of equip­ment meant that the stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tion was go­ing to be com­pro­mised and we also dis­cov­ered that clin­i­cal prac­ti­cal lessons were go­ing to be com­pro­mised.”

This, the min­is­ter added, would have seen LSOM pro­duc­ing half-baked doc­tors at a time Le­sotho was in des­per­ate need of this crit­i­cal skill.

“When the Le­sotho School of Medicine was launched, it fell un­der the Min­istry of Health which was ab­surd since the Min­istry of Edu- cation and Train­ing is re­spon­si­ble for ed­u­ca­tion in this coun­try,” Dr Phamotse said.

“I was not a min­is­ter at the time but I strongly be­lieve there was poor co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the Min­istry of Health and Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and this neg­a­tively af­fected the stu­dents as their ed­u­ca­tion was not pri­or­i­tized.”

Dr Phamotse said with the MOU, Le­sotho stands to ben­e­fit from Zam­bia’s ad­vanced med­i­cal train­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

“Zam­bia has recorded mile­stones in med­i­cal train­ing and is among re­gional coun­tries with the best med­i­cal stu­dents. We are there­fore op­ti­mistic that ba­sotho stu­dents will gain a lot from study­ing in that coun­try,” she said.

Dr Phamotse how­ever, said there are cer­tain “lo­gis­tics” which need to be ironed out first be­fore the stu­dents leave for Zam­bia.

“Gov­ern­ment will now have to sort out is­sues like fund­ing from the Na­tional Man­power Devel­op­ment Sec­re­tariat (NMDS) be­fore the stu­dents can leave for Zam­bia,” she said.

The stu­dents have to sign con­tracts with NMDS re­gard­ing their fees and up­keep in Zam­bia among other things, the min­is­ter added. Re­peated at­tempts to get a com­ment from Health Min­is­ter Dr Molotsi Monya­mane on the is­sue were not suc­cess­ful last night.

How­ever, last year the min­is­ter told the Le­sotho Times when CHE’S Qual­ity As­sur­ance Com­mit­tee is­sued its ver­dict in 2015 that the gov­ern­ment would not al­low the med­i­cal school to col­lapse. Dr Monya­mane also said plans were un­der­way to merge the school with the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho which he said would ad­dress its many chal­lenges.

“We can­not chase away stu­dents while ne­go­ti­a­tions for a merger with NUL are in progress. What stake­hold­ers should also be aware of is that the gov­ern­ment, through the Min­istry of Health, has now bud­geted funds for the school. The money is ex­pected to come in the next fi­nan­cial year and that bud­get would go a long way to­wards en­sur­ing the school does not have any more chal­lenges,” said Dr Monya­mane at the time.

The min­is­ter also em­pha­sised the med­i­cal school was an ini­tia­tive of the gov­ern­ment which would not be al­lowed to col­lapse.

“This ini­tia­tive should be linked to an in­sti­tu­tion of higher learn­ing as op­posed to fall­ing un­der the Min­istry of Health as is the case now, for it to con­form to the stan­dards of higher learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions.

“We came up with the med­i­cal school due to the dire need for health pro­fes­sion­als in this coun­try. The med­i­cal school is a pri­or­ity for us as we need di­verse skills in our hos­pi­tals.

“I need to men­tion that we al­ready have doc­tors who are do­ing a ster­ling job in dif­fer­ent hos­pi­tals but our gen­eral pop­u­la­tion needs ba­sotho doc­tors who would eas­ily in- ter­act with pa­tients like our grand­moth­ers in our com­mu­ni­ties. This is why the med­i­cal school needs the as­sis­tance of the NUL,” said Dr Monya­mane.

“It is not in the best in­ter­est of the gov­ern­ment for the school to be closed; we should be mind­ful that the med­i­cal school is about ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and ac­cess to health­care.

“We need more doc­tors, so for us to get them, we need this school to func­tion prop­erly un­der the laws of this coun­try.

“We have been ad­vised by the Coun­cil of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion that the school needs to be func­tion­ing un­der an al­ready es­tab­lished in­sti­tu­tion to guar­an­tee that it con­forms to the laws that es­tab­lished CHE, hence the on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the NUL.

“We want to see this med­i­cal school in- crease the num­ber of spe­cial­ist doc­tors in our hos­pi­tals so that we can re­duce the bur­den on Queen ‘Mamo­hato Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal.

“We want to see the school cur­ricu­lum in­clude courses for com­mu­nity health ex­ten­sion of­fi­cers who would be pro­fes­sion­ally trained and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to com­mu­ni­ties.

“The gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho is ded­i­cated to sup­port­ing the med­i­cal school as it needs to have its own in­sti­tu­tion that trains doc­tors.”

Dr Monya­mane also said what­ever chal­lenges the col­lege might be fac­ing are “teething prob­lems” it would over­come with time.

Mean­while, Zam­bia’s Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Michael Kaingu was quoted say­ing that in terms of the MOU, his coun­try will also send stu­dents to Le­sotho for train­ing in var­i­ous dis­ci­plines.

Ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing Min­is­ter dr Ma­hali Phamotse.

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