By Katlego Paakanyo, Daily Nation (Kenya) correspondent
Many African students are sent overseas to study medicine, money is spent on the course, which covers the duration of seven years, only to have them settle in their respective countries of study, never returning home to practice. The Executive council, in an attempt to address the topic of education and how it links with the strengthening of healthcare facilities and services to combat infectious diseases, delved deep into solutions for the current curricula echoing the need to panel-beat it to suit the African continent.
A motion by the Republic of Ivory Coast to assess tertiary education and how it may be reformed to aid combating infectious diseases lead to the most productive debate for the committee yet. Quite opinionated and realizing the importance of addressing the Education system, delegates did not shy away from suggesting solutions to current problems. In her speech, the delegate from the Republic of Equatorial Guinea stated that “The curricula need to cover prevalent infectious diseases in Africa” further putting emphasis on that money cannot be spent on sponsoring students to study overseas, as although what they learn may be advanced, it may not necessarily fit well into the African puzzle. In addition to the point raised by a fellow delegate, the Republique du Cote D’Ivoire delegate added to the discussion, highlighting the fact that relevance plays a huge role when addressing matters which may be unique to a particular demographic setup, in this case a disease such as Ebola, “trained medical professionals will be able to see problems in Africa since they will be trained in Africa for pressing diseases in Africa”, he added.
Delegates were quick to point out that although changing the tertiary education syllabi might be an effective tool in ensuring progress when combating infectious diseases, the solution may take a long time to implement, they therefore went on to suggest equally significant solutions which would gradually progress the continent to having a specialized tertiary school system. The Federal Republic of Nigeria representative to the council affirmed the need to start off small, pointing out that “Governments should mandate students currently studying medicine abroad to return to their nations after completing their courses”, to prevent the brain-drain which countries are currently facing. There will also be a gradual introduction of the specialized curricula to medical schools across the continent, to a point where eight years into the future the system followed will be highly specialized, including procedural matters such as actions to follow in case there is an outbreak of a deadly infectious disease.
Evidently, the Executive Council is driving the continent on the right path to combating the most pressing infectious diseases at the moment. This is the first step to diminishing the current dependence on external sources for medical training and expertise. The presented substantial solutions when implemented will see the medical arena improved immensely.