Maputo — Mozambique’s oldest and largest institution of higher education, the Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) on Friday justified its decision to fail those medical students who joined the doctors’ strike in January on the bureaucratic grounds that they had not complied with their academic obligations.
At the end of January, the University Medical Faculty told those medical students who joined the nine day doctors’ strike, organised by the Mozambican Medical Association (AMM) that they had failed part of their course and will have to take it again.
The faculty’s move to punish the strikers seemed to be in flagrant violation of the agreement between the AMM and the government, signed on 15 January, which ended the strike.
Part of this deal was that the Ministry would send a circular to all public sector health units giving instructions that no administrative measures were to be taken against those doctors and student doctors who did not present themselves for work during the strike.
The faculty decision concerned those sixth year medical students who work as interns at Maputo Central Hospital during the practical part of their course. All those who failed to show up during the strike are now deemed to have failed that part of the course, and must repeat it.
The AAM regarded these sanctions as a violating of the agreement between the Association and the government.
For a month the University leadership remained deaf to all protests – but on Friday the UEM spokesperson Joel Tembe called a press conference justifying the university’s sanctions, and accusing the striking students of “academic non-compliance” including “insurbordination against appeals and legal instructions”, lack of discipline and lack of respect for the academic authorities.
He claimed that the sanctions against the students were taken by the director of the Medical Faculty, after a great deal of thought – and were moderate, because given the supposed seriousness of the matter the students could all have been expelled.
Tembe did not make it clear how many students had been failed. He said there are 126 interns – 106 began their internship in February 2010, and 20 in September 2012. In theory the internship lasts a year. It is broken into several modules, and the students who joined the strike are deemed to have failed a module that lasts for ten weeks. Modules that students fail must be retaken at the end of the internship.
When Tembe broke the number of interns down the figure came, not to 126, but to 133. He said that 58 of the interns were awaiting their assessment note, including 31 who did not interrupt their studies during what he called “the disturbance of January”.
Five restarted the internship on 11 February, and 22 had sent a letter expressing an interest in restarting on 4 March. 37 had failed a previous module of their internship, and so now had two modules to repeat. 11 had failed two modules prior to January and now had three modules to retake.
Tembe said this was not the first time that sixth year medical students had been failed for “unsatisfactory behaviour”.
He added that the Medical Faculty had made every effort to dissuade the students from any “academic non-compliance”, even if they sympathized with the AMM’s wage demands.
Tembe noted that during the doctors’ strike the sixth year students at no time submitted any demands to the Medical Faculty, through the Nucleus of Medical Students, the Association of University Students or any other body.
At no point in his statement did Tembe mention that agreement with the government that ended the doctors’ strike.