22 February 2018

Gambia: Medical Students Raise Concerns

The students of the University of the Gambia School of Medicine have raise concern and complained bitterly about the situation they are faced with at the country's highest Institution of learning.

"We understand our situation as a third world country and a lot of things are not readily available. However, accessible quality health care is a right and a need of every human being. In the light of this, improved, timely and relevant medical education is pivotal towards its achievement," they said.

The UTG Med. students made these statements at their school campus in the Capital City Banjul, on Wednesday the 21st day of February 2018. The students were led by the School's students' union, an Ad-HOC committee that was formed during the Congress in July 2017. Among the responsibilities of this body, is to raise the concerns of the students in the School of Medicine and Allied Sciences.

The Committee was formed under the University of the Gambia Medical Students Association which represents the voice of the students. According to the Ad-HOC Committee spokesperson, their Constitution under section 14 (2), gives them the mandate to investigate issues of concern and report to congress. "The Medical School is tasked with the training of competent medical doctors to take care of our health needs. We are faced with a lot of challenges as students which comprise our training program and its outcome" they said.

They raised the issue of delay in their curriculum which is spread across a period of seven years; that however, the last two to three year students have been spending up to eight years. They said the current final year classes are in their 8th year and have still not graduated and the classes behind have also incurred similar delays which might even extend their program beyond eight years. "Adding insult to injury, students are required to pay for the extra year despite being delayed by the University. Consequently, the programme outline states seven years, while the transcript shows eight years. This discrepancy may raise doubts about the credibility of the transcript," they said.

On the issues of the lecturers, they said some of them are entitled to a month's holiday annually abroad; that due to inconsistencies in their departure and return dates, students are made to wait indefinitely until they return; that last year, they stayed away for at least seven months and this almost paralyzed the medical school. They added that such things have been recurrent and as a result, there had not been any fixed calendars or holidays for medical students.

On the issue of accommodation, they said for an effective clinical rotation, it is essential for medical students to live at least a walking distance from the hospital. "This allows us easy access to patients and learning of clinical skills. This area in medicine is the only art that cannot be taught online. The lack of accommodation has reduced clinical exposure of students. Furthermore, travel constraints especially at odd hours make it unsafe, particularly for female students. This grossly affects our performance," they said.

Among their demands include a round table conference with all stakeholders including the Provost, School of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, the Vice Chancellor University of the Gambia, Minister of Higher Education, Research Science and Technology, Minister of Health and Social Welfare and the President of the Gambia Medical and Dental Council. Their demands also include re-evaluation and improvement of the medical program and the learning conditions. It further includes the establishment of a dormitory that is within a walking distance from the hospital for the accommodation of medical students.

In conclusion, the students said as they aspire to become champions in providing quality health care to all Gambians and beyond, they deem it necessary for all these stakeholders to collaborate and make the Medical School a shining example of excellence in Medical education.

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