Medical council bans certificates from Ukrainian universities
This move means that Nigerian medical students who graduate from any Ukrainian university from 2022 onwards will not be allowed to sit the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) examinations, which is a prerequisite for obtaining a licence and practising in Nigeria.
In a statement issued on 18 June 2022, the MDCN premised its decision on the ongoing war in Ukraine, stating that its decision was guided by the information that some students are carrying out online medical training organised by schools in Ukraine, China, and other countries.
The council said medical students studying in Ukrainian universities would have to wait until the war is over and physical classes resume, emphasising that online medical training does not meet acceptable standards and will, thus, not be recognised.
“[The] council, however, advises students who are currently studying medicine or dentistry in Ukrainian medical schools to seek transfer to other accredited medical or dental schools in other countries for the completion of their programmes,” the MDCN added.
Petition against MDCN decision
Naturally, the MDCN’s decision did not go down well with the affected students and has resulted in a petition on Change.org, a global petition website operating from San Francisco in the US.
The petition was started on behalf of the Nigerian Final Year Medical Student Community from Ukraine by Oru Dominic, a sixth-year medical student at Ternopil National Medical University, who was two months away from completing his medical degree when Russian forces invaded Ukraine.
In the petition, Dominic labelled the MDCN’s decision as “injustice and hatred for foreign-trained doctors”.
“We did not cause the war and should not be punished for it. Besides, the war started three months ago [whereas] for the past six years, we have been having our classes and clinical rotations (except for when COVID-19 first set in),” he wrote.
The medical students asked the MDCN to give them the chance to prove that they have truly been trained and educated just like everyone else.
“Denying us the right to take this exam just because we took some classes on differential diagnosis online, would not only have a devastating impact on us as students, but it will also have adverse effects on the health sector, which is currently short-staffed.
“It would be a gross injustice to us that, despite being traumatised, surviving a war and completing our medical education, our own country’s board is denying us the dream we have poured so much blood and sweat into. It would also be unfair to our parents and sponsors that have spent millions of naira to ensure that our dream of being doctors becomes a reality,” Dominic said.
The petition, which has garnered about 3,000 signatures, is addressed to the Nigerian government as well as the international medical community.
Medical bodies support the decision
“The war started in March and the class of 2022 were to graduate around May or June. How could someone claim that we studied via online means? We had completed the programme and we were only doing revisions when the war broke out. This stand of the MDCN is simply wicked and discriminatory,” said Ikechukwu Onu, a sixth-year medical student at Kyiv Medical University.
Activist Enobong Etteh lampooned the medical council for its decision, saying: “The sixth year-level students at the National Medical University in Kharkiv had basically concluded lectures and clinicals. They were in revision classes awaiting their final examination in May when the war broke out in February.
“Nigeria should commend the university for the feat of finalising the students’ final-year examination during the war. We have so much to learn from Ukraine, rather than punish innocent students and parents simply because we are Nigerians,” he said.
However, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) supported the MDCN’s decision, stressing that the virtual tutelage of medical students is not acceptable anywhere in the world.
“Medicine and dentistry are both science and art, which require mastery of a very large body of information on the one hand and hands-on skills on the other. “The two professions are learned through apprenticeship and require physical hands-on tutoring, which is extremely difficult to effectively impart over the internet,” NMA president Dr Uche Ojinmah and secretary-general Dr Jide Onyekwelu said in a co-signed statement.
The cost of war for medical students
Approximately 4,300 Nigerian students study in Ukraine, the fifth-largest number (5.4%) of the 80,000 international students in the eastern European country, according to data from Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science.
Nigerian students in Ukraine, many of whom study medicine, previously said that Ukrainian education is appealing because it is affordable, the environment is safe, and the standard of living much higher.
But the Ukraine war, started by Russia on 24 February 2022, resulted in the evacuation of international students. Hundreds of international students were flown back to Nigeria while some fled to other European countries like Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
However, some weeks after students were forced to flee and abandon their studies, several university authorities in Ukraine began to replicate the COVID-19 pandemic era model of online learning, teaching via virtual presentations and pre-recorded videos. This comes even though some teachers are hiding out in bunkers in Ukraine or have fled to neighbouring countries for their own safety.
The introduction of online learning provided a degree of reassurance for many medical students that they would have the opportunity to complete their courses. But some students have reported that they were not able to log into their classes due to erratic internet connections and electricity supply. Some also said their classes were disrupted by background noise from sirens in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in other countries like India, uncertainty also looms over the future of medical students returning from Ukraine.
Medical graduates from Ukraine face a regulatory roadblock ahead as migrating out of medical school from one college to another is not permissible as per the Indian National Medical Council regulations, The Economic Times reported on 2 March 2022.