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Medical school beef fabricated

13 June 2012

Unam School of MedicineTHE head of the Unam School of Medicine, Professor Peter Nyarango, has strongly denied allegations of mismanagement, a lack of qualified staff and that the school has become a ‘white elephant’.

The allegations surfaced after reports of differences between doctors one the one hand and Minister of Health Richard Kamwi supported by the Dean of the National School of Medicine at the University of Namibia about how to run the school.


Attempts by the Windhoek Observer over the last two weeks to obtain comment from Dr Kamwi on the matter have so far proved unsuccessful.
Sources claimed that a group of doctors recently sought an audience with President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma to complain about the poor manner in which the authorities allegedly run the school.
However, in an e-mailed response to questions sent to him, Nyarango, the Dean of Medical School at Unam, denied that there are any disputes over the management of the medical school.
He also said he was not aware of any meeting between state doctors and Pohamba or Nujoma.
“The National School of Medicine at the University of Namibia is living within its vision and mission. I have no doubt that the school is on course to become the premier medical establishment of our time.
“I have been associated with the creation of two medical schools in the past, the Unam School of Medicine is the best resourced at inception, has the most solid political commitment and has hit the ground running.
“In terms of equipment, the school can boast of having the most technologically advanced equipment for training medical professionals anywhere in the world,” he claimed.
Nyarango said the worries of some pioneer students were laid to rest after paying a visit to an old and acclaimed school of medicine.
“‘We could smell the anatomy department from several blocks away,’ one student remarked upon returning to the country,” Nyarango narrated to show that students realised they were better off than those at some medical schools were.
“Obviously much more needs to be done to turn round our teaching hospitals. Even this is no hindrance to clinical instructions and training.
“We are working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Health and Social Services to transform the existing facilities, not only into academic hospitals, but also into centres for advanced clinical care and training,” he added.
He denied reports that the school had turned into a white elephant.
Starting a school of medicine anywhere in the world, but more so in Africa, is often a contentious proposition attracting an entire spectrum of opinions, which often range from outright rejection through scepticism to total and unqualified support.
“Namibia is no exception. I am only too aware of sceptics who until now waged resistance but are turning the corner with the view, ‘that is not how we learnt’.”
According to Nyarango, the school has faced the expected challenges in attracting the right calibre of human resources. However, he said, this is the situation the world over.
“Good, experienced and free-floating professors are not easy to come by. However with time, persistence and the growing positive image of the school, we have seen an upsurge of interest from clinical specialists in the country, experienced professors from the region and from many countries overseas.”
Three years since inception, they have appointed eight professors, four long-term visiting professors, four senior lecturers, nine lecturers, one assistant lecturer and three technicians.
“At the beginning of the year we enlisted the participation of no less than five senior Ministry of Health and Social Services specialists and the same number from private practice in the clinical teaching of our students.
“Beginning in July this year we expected all the clinical specialists in Katutura and Windhoek Central Departments of Surgery, Mother and Child Care to be fully involved in teaching. Several specialists from private practice will also complement our teaching staff.
“On the human resource front, I am extremely confident now than ever before.
“We still need more fulltime staff in the clinical disciplines. We need more Namibians for future sustainability,” he added.
He denied that the school had requested specialised doctors working for the State to work and teach at the school for free.
“I don’t work for free. Why should I expect anybody to work for the school of medicine without pay? We at the school have sought to find a way around policy and procedural strictures hampering payment to specialists working in the state hospitals.
“Annually, we make budgetary provisions for this to happen. Fortunately, we believe that the university, the Public Services Commission and the Ministry of Health and Social Services are working round the clock to unlock the closed passages,” he said.
Many state employees have taught at the school without making payment a pre-condition.
“Only a few declined not so much due to absence of pay but more importantly due to policy/administrative framework.
“Not many specialists join academia expecting to get a good salary or get rich. Most of us come into teaching for the love of the work and the intellectual challenge.”
Nyarango said they managed the school according to the provisions of the University of Namibia Act of 1992.
The Act leaves no room for personalising the running of the medical school. Furthermore, the school conforms to the requirements of the accrediting body, he said.
“The school is managed by a team not by an individual. I am mission-driven and result-oriented. I know that I have stepped on some sore toes but this is nothing personal. Also in the medical profession there will arise a diversity of opinions on any one issue.
“This is even more so in academia. The diversity of opinions helps shape the direction we take, but ultimately we have to stick to the letter and spirit of the law and university regulations.
“This is healthy and cannot be described as squabbles unless one has another agenda besides building the school.
“We are about three years into the degree programme. In two years’ time our first graduates will be ready for internship. We are confident that we all will be proud of the product.” – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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