IMSU Medical Students disrupted activities on the campus and the school’s Teaching Hospital, last Monday, to protest the management’s inability to get their programmes accredited, after three failed attempts. Most of the students have spent 10 years studying a six-year course. FRANKLIN ONWUBIKO reports.
How long should it take to study Medicine and Surgery in any university in Nigeria? It is six years, according to the National Universities Commission (NUC), the body that accredits and regulates academic curricula.
But, at the Imo State University (IMSU) in Owerri, the period for medical training seems indefinite, as students admitted into the Medical College are yet to graduate, 10 years after. Reason: the insitution’s medical programmes have not been accredited by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) after three consecutive attempts.
Worried by the development, medical students staged a protest that disrupted activities on the campus last Monday. The protesters decried what they called the school’s “slow response” to the accreditation challenges, resolving that they would boycott lectures and clinical activities until the management gets their programmes accredited.
Clad in white lab coats, the protesters gathered at 10:30am at a classroom, from where they took off. They carried various placards with inscriptions, such as: “No lecture except our programmes are accredited”, “Give us a date for another accreditation”, “We are tired of failed accreditation”, and “What is our fate after 10 years?”, among others.
The IMSU Medical Students’ Association President, Chukwuebuka Nkwogu, who was admitted nine years ago, urged the students to be peaceful in expressing their grievances as he led the protesters to the office of the Medical College Provost, who was not in the office.
The protesters turned the provost’s office to a prayer spot. They went on their knees and ‘cast out’ the devil standing against their programmes’ accreditation.
The protesters marched on the IMSU Teaching Hospital, chanting solidarity songs on the corridors. They were addressed by the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr. Frederick Anorue, and the hospital’s Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) Chairman, Dr. Henry Chineke.
Anorue told the protesters that all hands were on deck to ensure that the institution met the conditions for accreditation. He advised the students to list their demands, so he could discuss the issues with the Vice-Chancellor (VC).
Anorue reassured Pathology and Pharmacology students that their courses would soon be okayed. He said: “The management is working hard to help the conditions of students. The VC has promised to take the bull by the horn and get the affected courses accredited.”
His address was followed by chants of solidarity songs by the protesters, an indication that they did not accept his explanation.
Chukwuebuka thanked the CMD for identifying with the students’ plight, noting that the protest would continue until a new date is announced for accreditation.
He said: “The students have been left heartbroken and disappointed. Most of us have been stagnated on the same academic level for years but the management seems not bothered by our plight. The school and other stakeholders are not showing enough concern. Under normal circumstances, we shouldn’t be the one telling the school what it needs to do.
‘’We are concerned because our future is at stake. This is why we are involved in the accreditation discussion and sending delegates to meet with the administrative staff. We are tired of asking what the problem is.”
The protesters said boycotting classes would make the management to solve the problems quickly. They said there was no need to continue learning since they did not see the results of their professional examination.
Since the beginning of the year, CAMPUSLIFE gathered, no effort had been made by the IMSU to bring back the MDCN’s accreditation team to to assess Medical College’s programme, a development that left the students unsettled. It was learnt that the last exercise was last November.
The protesters went to the Obstetrics and Gynecology Unit of the hospital, where they also prayed against the devil. Afterwards, they moved through the Resident Doctors’ Quarters and returned to the spot from where they took off.
A former leader of the students’ association, Dr. Nzeoma Ogechi, now a House Officer at the Teaching Hospital, praised the protesters for being peaceful. He advised the students to be articulate in their demands, promising his support for the struggle.
Chukwuebuka told The Nation: “There is a major problem at the Pathology department, where students have completed the syllabus, but the examination would not be conducted because of this accreditation challenge. If this is not resolved on time, students are likely to spend more than 12 years in school.
“We are still forced to collect stipends from our parents and some students are having psychological problem. Some of our lecturers who have children in the Medical College have withdrawn them to other schools, seeing that things are not working out. Apart from the government’s intervention we plead for, we as well need a pragmatic college management.”
Most of the protesters bore matriculation numbers issued in 2008/2009 session. One of them, Stanley Onyekwere, the final year class representative, said: “We are tired of being told to be hopeful about the accreditation. Why should I spend 10 years for a six-year programme? We are deeply concerned that management has not announced the date for re-accreditation. We have already gone beyond the six-month duration given. We want to know when the accreditation team is coming to the campus.”
Emeka Uzomah, who has been in school for eight years, said: “We are tired of what is happening in our environment and that is why we are staging this peaceful protest. We don’t want the next generation to suffer this same fate. We need the management to sit up and get the medical school going. Our mates in other schools have graduated and we are still in this same system.”
Stella Ugochukwu, the Medical Students’ Association Vice-President, said the protest would be massive next time.
“We are on accreditation struggle and we shall pursue it to a logical conclusion. Our 10-year stay in the school has become our nightmare. We are stagnated at a level and move around a circle. We want management to give us a date for the accreditation. We don’t want to stay more than the abnormal 10 years we have already spent in school. Accreditation has been our greatest fear and we plead with the government, the management and well-meaning citizens of the state to help us achieve this goal.”
The protesters hoped the demonstration would instigate actions that would lead to the full accreditation of their programmes.