Namibia: Health Ministry Witholds Graduates' Qualifications

More than 100 medicine and dentistry graduates who studied in Russia are not able to apply for jobs because the ministry of health has not returned their certificates following a translation exercise.

The group, who graduated this year from the First Moscow State Medical University and People's Friendship University of Russia, were asked to submit their certificates of qualification to the ministry in June for translation from Russian to English. However, the graduates say since submitting their documents, the ministry has not returned their certificates four months later.

One of the graduates, who declined to be named, last week said they are part of a group who received scholarships from the health ministry to study medicine, dentistry and pharmacy in Moscow, Russia, in 2013.

"My group, which was the first intake, graduated in June this year and, because we studied abroad, our qualifications needed to be translated," she said.

She added that the health ministry offered to pay for their translations through the Namibian embassy in Russia, which was only supposed to take two to three weeks, but has now turned into months.

The graduate said that when they enquired with the ministry about the status of their qualifications, they were informed that the embassy had chosen the wrong person to translate their documents, resulting in the delay.

"They said when they approached the embassy to do the translation, they were provided with quotations from two guys and picked one guy, but apparently the embassy took the documents to the wrong person, who is much more expensive," she said.

After approaching the embassy in Moscow through a fellow student who resides there, the students were informed that most of the qualifications were already translated, but the rest would only be finished and sent back once the full price for the translation was paid.

The source said that because they did not receive their documents in time, they were not able to register with the Health Professions Council of Namibia (HPCNA) to take the board exam required before they could start practising.

"We had the evaluation in September and we missed that. We needed to register with the HPCNA before we even take the board exam and without the documents, we already missed the first one," she said.

She added that with the next exam taking place at the beginning of next year, she is afraid that the documents will not be returned before the year end holidays.

"We are worried because if we do not get our documents before December, we could miss the next exam because the ministry officials might go on holiday," she said. Since receiving the response on the hold-up to the translation of their qualifications, the source revealed that the students have not received any further responses from the ministry.

"They don't give us updates, and we just don't know where we stand at this moment," she said.

Another student, who also chose to remain anonymous, said the wait and stress of not knowing when her documents would be returned, is pushing her into depression.

"Without my qualification I am nothing. I cannot find a job related to my professional career. Life is getting harder and harder and I am unable to sustain my own life. The whole experience can easily trigger stress induced psychosis in some individuals," she said.

Contacted for comment, health executive director Ben Nangombe yesterday said the ministry is working hard to ensure that the qualifications of the more than 100 medicine and dentistry graduates are returned as soon as possible.

Nangombe said the reason the translation process was delayed was because of outstanding payments.

"The translation process took [a] long [time] because the payment must be done in accordance with the Namibian procurement laws and procedures," he said, adding that the documents would be received once the translation process was concluded.

His response comes after one graduate told The Namibian that since handing in her degree qualification to be translated in June this year, she has not got it back yet.

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