Namibia: Medical Graduates Sue to Stop Exam

A GROUP of foreign-educated medical graduates who wanted the High Court to stop a pre-internship evaluation of their knowledge and skills from proceeding today have received a month-long reprieve, after the exam was postponed to February.

An urgent application in which four medical graduates who obtained their degrees at foreign universities were trying to have a written test that was scheduled for today stopped by the court was due to be heard by deputy judge president Hosea Angula on Friday, but ended up being postponed after the judge was informed that the test had been shifted to 21 February.

Samson Enkali, one of the lawyers representing the four applicants in the case, told the judge the graduates received a notification saying that the test had been moved to 21 February. As a result of that development, the case was postponed to Wednesday, with judge Angula directing the parties to indicate to the court by then how they plan to have the matter proceed from there.

The four graduates who are the applicants in the matter - Natalia Iileka, Elizabeth Kambonde and Kolin Kazeundja, who graduated at universities in Russia and Ukraine, and Ndeshipanda Shatona, who studied medicine at a university in China - are asking the court to stop a second written evaluation of their knowledge and skills until they have received the outcome of an appeal that they lodged against an examination of the Medical and Dental Council of Namibia that they wrote near the end of November.

The four failed the exam that they wrote on 29 and 30 November last year.

In an appeal that they lodged to an appeal committee of the Medical and Dental Council of Namibia, they stated that they were aggrieved by the examination results, which recorded that they had failed. They also claimed that this outcome of the exam made them suffer "psychological strain and stress", that they suffered ridicule from University of Namibia medical students, who did not have to undergo the same evaluation as foreign-educated medical graduates, and that the results caused a public outcry from taxpayers.

Iileka says in an affidavit filed at the High Court that before she and nearly 240 other foreign-educated medical graduates wrote a required pre-internship evaluation on 29 and 30 November, they were informed that the structure of the evaluation had been changed, with the number of questions with multiple choice answers that would be posed to them increased from 100 to 300 - while the exam time period of three hours remained unchanged.

Iileka also says that on the first day of the exam, she and the other graduates were dismayed to discover that they were being examined on general surgery, including trauma surgery, which was supposed to be part of the next day's examination.

She and the other graduates were subjected to an unlawful and unfair examination, Iileka claims, and this prompted them to lodge an appeal to the appeal committee on 11 January 2019.

With the appeal pending, another written pre-internship evaluation was set for some of the graduates who did not pass the test at the end of November. Iileka, though, was informed in December that, having failed her written evaluation, she would have to undergo at least 12 months of further practical training before she would get another chance to be evaluated prior to being registered as a medical intern.

The minister of health, who is one of the respondents cited in the case, and the Medical and Dental Council, the chairpersons of the council's appeal committee and education committee, and the registrar of the Health Professions Councils of Namibia have given notice that they would be opposing the application.

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