By Afe Babalola
My attention has been drawn to the publication titled “VCs decry varsities’ low carrying capacity for medical students” in a national daily of May 14, 2022.
In the publication, the Secretary-General of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, CVCNU, Prof. Yakubu Ochefu, revealed that the Committee is partnering with universities in Egypt to initiate medical mobility exchange programmes and address the problem of the low-carrying capacity of medical education studies in Nigerian universities.
Prof. Yakubu Ochefu said this in Abuja while addressing journalists on the partnership of the Committee with the Association of African Universities and specifically with Egyptian universities.
CVCNU’s observation: The observation by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors is right. I am in full agreement with the Committee that the carrying capacity for medical education is lamentably less than eight per cent of demand. I also agree with the Committee’s statement that 436,799 applied to study Medicine in Nigerian universities in 2019 even though there were only 30,111 spaces, representing 7.95 per cent of the available capacity.
My personal experience: My personal experience is that over 3,000 students apply to study Medicine at ABUAD annually. Most of the students who apply to study Medicine annually are well-qualified to study the course.
Yet, even though the NUC confirms that our Medical College has all the necessary and required facilities, equipment, infrastructure and personnel, it only allocated an admission quota of only 120 while the MDCN allocated 100. It is obvious from the above that the two bodies gave conflicting quotas which makes it difficult for us, or anybody in our shoes, to know which one to stick to.
As a parent, it is very painful for me to turn away well-qualified candidates all because of the low admission quota allotted to us. This has also brought untold pressure on me from parents like judges, governors, ministers and high-ranking military personnel who want their children to study medicine at our university.
Just in line with the observation of the vice-chancellors, we have done our research and found out that in other civilised countries, the admission quota is not based on the age of a university, but on carrying capacity.
In Nigeria today, the MDCN has refused to increase the admission quota on the basis that much older universities which are between 60 and 70 years old are given an admission quota of between 100 and 150.
The Medical and Dental Body often asks itself this question: “If a university which is between 60 and 70 years old has an admission quota of between 100 and 150, why should a new university have a higher admission quota than an older university?”
As noted by the CVCNU, this pedantic approach has grossly hampered the development of medical education in Nigeria. As stated by the vice-chancellors, I am aware that the NUC was persuaded to travel to Sudan and Egypt to confirm our position that the admission quota is not based on the age of a university, but on carrying capacity. They even found as a fact that a university which was less than three years old, but with all the necessary carrying capacity, was given up to 400 students.
The unpalatable fact is that because of the lack of admission facilities in Nigeria for medical students, parents are forced to send their children overseas at great expense. Some even went as far as Cyprus and Ukraine. At some point, the MDCN found that the standard of medical education in those countries was low as a result of which medical students who qualified from those countries had to be taken through further training here in Nigeria before they could be registered.
Worse still, over 5,200 Nigerian students were trapped in the ongoing Russian/Ukraine War. One can only imagine the agony and trauma they went through when they applied to the Nigerian Government to fly them back home. Unfortunately, while some of the girls were allowed to exit Ukraine to nearby countries, some of the boys were refused to leave Ukraine and instead given guns to fight the Russians.
I congratulate the Committee of Vice-Chancellors on their references to Egypt and other North African countries.
Conclusion: When private people are contributing to the development of education in the country by establishing private universities, one expects that government agencies would not dampen their enthusiasm or allow their assets, efforts and equipment to waste away. Rather, it is expected that such private individuals should be encouraged. Once again, I congratulate the CVCVU for its most timely and welcome intervention in this matter.