Zambia lacks basic scientists; The Post Newspapers; Zambia

December 24, 2010

It is difficult for the country to set up more medical institutions because it has no basic scientists, says Professor Yakub Mulla.

Prof Mulla, the dean of the school of medicine at the University of Zambia (UNZA), said Zambia did not have indigenous people with masters degrees in basic science training since independence.

Prof Mulla, who is also the chairman of the Health Professions Council of Zambia, said the inadequacy of qualified people made it difficult for the country to train more doctors and physicians.

He said the country lacked lecturers who specialised in basic sciences such as physiologists and anatomists.

“Government is hoping to set up another medical school in Ndola and we also have two private schools coming up next year hopefully. Although our capacity is small, we are trying to support them in training,” said Professor Mulla when he addressed trainee journalists at Post Newspapers offices in Lusaka on Wednesday.

Professor Mulla wondered who would be lecturing at the schools scheduled to open next year if the country did not have lecturers in that area.

“When you put up an advert in the newspapers and say ‘we want anatomist and pathologist lecturers; we will pay you so much dollars’ no one turns up because there’s nobody,” Prof Mulla said.

Prof Mulla, an orthopaedist, said the country’s only school of medicine had focused more on training lecturers in clinical disciplines.

“Since 1982 when we started training lecturers locally, we have had a lot of clinical disciplines. We have had masters in surgery, orthopaedics, pediatrics, gynaecologists… but no training in basic sciences,” he said. “As a school of medicine, we have postgraduates training in nine specialist areas but next year, we intend to introduce the basic sciences because that is the foundation of our training.

For instance, how the body works, what anatomy is, what diseases can affect the body before the students get into clinical training.”

However, Prof Mulla was hopeful that Zambia would produce enough basic scientists to meet the demand with the two grants that the school received from the US and the University of Colombia.

“The American government introduced an initiative called the Medical Education Partnership Initiative for Southern Africa worth US$130 million. Our school is among the 11 countries that have been selected. Zambia will receive US$2 million per year for 5 years,” Prof Mulla said. “At the same time, the UNZA School of Medicine is among schools in three countries in Africa that have been selected under the Nursing Education Partnership Initiative of the University of Colombia to help improve the standards of nurses in the country. So we are lucky that we are recipients of two grants,” Prof Mulla said.

He said the school had embarked on training doctors locally so as to reduce the incidence of brain drain.

“Since we started training doctors, 90 per cent stayed within the country because they were trained locally. They got used to the system and most of them got deployed to senior positions, so we are using that as a lesson,” Prof Mulla said.

He said it was difficult to retain health specialists when trained abroad because they adapted to foreign systems and incentives.

Prof Mulla said Zambian doctors and physicians were not reasonably paid like their Western counterparts although they were better remunerated compared to those in other African countries.


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