University of Namibia(UNAM) students who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Bio-Chemistry cannot practice in medical laboratories because the course is not accredited by the Health Professions Council of Namibia(HPCNA), The Patriot can reveal.
The HPCNA confirmed this week that the courses have not been accredited despite being offered to students, further stating that the health council has informed UNAM about the shortcomings in the course that needs to be addressed for learners to be registered with the council.
The deputy registrar of the HPCNA Crispin Mafwila said the university has not submitted any curriculum to the council, therefore graduates cannot be allowed to register and practice. HPCNA has been established as a governing body of all allied health professions. The council regulates the registration of persons practicing health professions.
“In terms of section 16 of the Medical and Dental Act, 2004. No healthcare related course which is registrable under this Act must be offered before approval by Medical and Dental Council of Namibia. Therefore, UNAM has not applied or submitted a curriculum in Medical macro biology and Clinical Biochemistry courses hence UNAM’s course in these fields is not registrable by Council as they are not approved,” explained Mafwila.
Mafwila further suggested that Unam should be answerable as to why students are trained in a course which is not approved.
UNAM did not comment on the matter after a set of questions that seek clarity on the accreditation status of the courses were sent to the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Frednard Gideon. He relayed the queries to the Dean of Science Dr. Ndeyapo Nickanor. The questions were sent to the university officials on Monday, but by the time of going to press yesterday there was still no response.
One of the affected graduates, Aune Haukongo who graduated in 2015, is one the many individuals that finds herself stuck between a rock and a hard place as far as employment is concerned. Haukongo is currently unemployed.
Haukongo’s studies were funded by the Namibia Students Financial Aid Fund(NSFAF).
She expressed her disappointment in the university which she trusted would deliver quality education.
“It is not that we cannot find jobs, the real problem is that there are no biological labs that are willing to offer us jobs because we are not registered to practice by the health council. Our curriculum is lacking a number of modules that would enable us to be classified as health professionals, at the moment we are only classified as biological scientists. We can never be laboratory technologists or medical laboratory technicians we can only be laboratory assistants,” she said.
The only way the graduates can be employed is by occupying laboratory assistant positions which is equivalent to a person with just a grade 12, as per requirements.
“To be a graduate classified as an assistant is very unfair. NUST graduates are laboratory technologists and medical laboratory technologists because they have done biomedical sciences and their curriculum is up to date. NUST students are recognised by the HPCNA,” Haukongo lamented.
“They look down on us, working as an assistant but the person who bears the same qualification as you becomes your senior. Not because they are doing a better job or they have a better qualification but because their qualification is more relevant….it is very discouraging,” she bemoaned.
Haukongo suggested that the long term solution would be to incorporate the modules which are required by the HPCNA so that perhaps they can become health professionals and not be limited to practice.
“Greater emphasis was always put on studying sciences and that’s what we did so that we could contribute towards the development of this country. It seems to be more a waste of time,” she said.
Ernst Groenewald a graduate from Unam with an Honours degree in Biochemistry and Molecular biology, who also spoke to The Patriot, said UNAM assured him that he will be able to work in any lab in Namibia with his qualification. This turned out not to be the case.
“In my final year I went to inquire and I was told I could not register with HPCNA because of missing modules. I didn’t pay much attention at the time, but this year I went to Namibia Institute of Pathology and Pathcare, I was informed they don’t employ Unam graduates with bio chemistry qualifications because they aren’t registered with HPCNA. I approached HPCNA and I was informed that Unam was informed that the curriculum is not approved,” he said.
Groenewald said “my wish is that Unam offers a one year course which is inclusive of the outstanding modules required by HPCNA. I was told to rather go and do the course at NUST.”
He added: “I’ve wasted all my money and time. UNAM should also do proper career counselling. We need to inform all the students that are doing this course or that want to do it. It is so sad that there are many science graduates and students but no jobs.”
Career guidance is a much needed subject in the country. Many students pursue courses without doing proper research but academic institutions also fail the students as they do not inform them on the proper prospects and setbacks. As much as career guidance is needed in schools, the universities should also properly communicate what they are offering.