UB has its first medics

SHARE   |   Monday, 20 October 2014   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang

The University of Botswana, this weekend made history, after it produced its first medicine graduates.

After gruelling studies, the 31 students studying at UB’s Faculty of Medicine (FoM) are now qualified doctors.

For a long time Botswana has been sending students overseas to study for doctorates.

When the programme started almost six years ago, some people were doubtful whether UB will be able to produce qualified doctors that meet the required international standards. Because of the challenges and hardships that the students had to endure in their studies they were themselves at times uncertain about the programme. At some point they were taught in an inadequately resourced noisy warehouse at the bus rank and they constantly complained of being assigned unskilled facilitators.

However, through determination, passion and dedication from all those who were involved in the programme, the pioneering doctors finally have graduated. The graduation of these doctors comes at a time when Botswana is in need of more doctors and it is believed that they will help argument the shortage of medical personnel in the country.

Speaking at the celebration dinner for the graduates the Head of Biomedical Sciences at UB’s Faculty of Medicine Dr George Mokone regarded the graduates as the country’s crème de la crème and urged government to retain such students in Botswana. Dr Mokone said for universities such as Harvard to be as good as they are, it is because of the good students sent there. He argued that for UB School of Medicine to be among the top schools, it needs top students such as the class graduating now. “I now call on government to stop sending high achieving students overseas for doctor’s training but to enrol them with UB,” he said.

Dr Mokone said the top Aahiever’s programme in which top performing students are sent to universities outside the country for studies should focus on taking students to UB. He said by sending them out, Botswana is giving away all the good students to other countries. “This at the end could compromise the quality of doctors that we produce locally since all the best students would have gone to other institutions,” explained Dr Mokone. He went on to say the government spend a lot of money on these students while they are overseas and some of them do not return afterwards. With the school of medicine in Botswana, already producing quality doctors, Mokone believes this a good way of saving money for the country by educating its doctors within its borders.

The dean of FoM, Professor Sandro Vento congratulated the students on their achievement. Professor Vento said even through the problems and difficulties that the faculty had especially in the first three years, the students managed to hold on and eventually graduated. “Everyone knows of the difficulties that we had and even though I would not say we are perfect we managed to succeed. We can still do better and I believe as time goes on, we will be the best,” said Professor Vento as he congratulated the students. He confirmed that some people including the students were sometimes doubtful whether the school will be able to survive. However he thanked them for the endurance and hunger they had for success. 

Professor Vento urged the graduates to continue their hard work even into the work environment. “Always be as humble as possible when helping patients. Put yourselves in the shoes of the patients and think what would like the doctor to do then do that. By doing that, you will be a better doctor,” he said. The professor urged the young doctors to keep learning and never think they know too much for them to be good doctors. He pleaded with the graduates to come back to UB to do Masters of Medicine programs.

When narrating their journey and stay at the medical school, the students said it was a hard but exciting experience for them. One graduate revealed how they used to study in unfavourable environment at the bus rank. They revealed that this made their journey and learning tough but determination saw them through. “Our lecturers used to tell as you have to learn the hard way and indeed we learnt the hard way,” said one graduate. The graduates however were happy with the way things turned out as the years progressed since they got a brand new school with almost everything.

Dr Pholoso Pelle, the former class representative said graduating is not the end of the road but the beginning of a really difficult journey of serving the people. He said as much as they look up to government to help them, they should also put all their efforts to serve Batswana diligently. The 31 students are part of the initial 36 student doctors who started the course.

Before being absorbed into the system, the graduates will undergo a Medical Internship Training (MIT) programme which will commence at the end of October 2014.  They will sent to various health facilities scattered across the country to serve their training.