SA‘s public hospitals will have 1,600 fewer doctors and the class of 2016 will miss out on graduation if the university shutdown continues.
Business Day reports that this is the grim reality that came out of a failed fees imbizo in Kempton Park on Monday, where President Jacob Zuma made an opening address but rushed off to fulfil his other obligations, leaving students to face off with vice-chancellors, and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and his deputy, Mduduzi Manana.
Sixteen out of the country’s 26 universities, including the remained closed on Monday. Rorisang Moseli, president of the UCT student representative council, said: “At this point we must be quite frank that the sector will collapse if they don’t address this [fees] issue.” There would be huge implications if the academic programme did not resume at universities next week, he said.
University of the Witwatersrand vice-chancellor Adam Habib said shutting down universities for the rest of the year would have a ripple effect. “If this situation does not change, we will not be able to graduate anyone this year. Public hospitals will have 1,600 fewer doctors in January 2017 and the economy will have to deal with thousands fewer engineers, accountants and other professionals,” he said.
Other universities affected by the shutdown are the University of the Free State, the University of Limpopo and the University of the North West.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has warned that ongoing protests at universities could have a devastating impact on the public health sector, says an Eyewitness News report. Should final year medical students not graduate this year there will be almost 2,000 fewer junior doctors entering the public health system.
Motsoaledi says government and leaders of tertiary education have tried to engage with protesting students. “If all leaders of the country, vice-chancellors, presidents, SRC presidents and other leaders of all the universities were there yesterday in a big indaba to try and resolve this issue, now at what other level should the listening be?”
But sixth-year medical student Masego Moema says in the report that it shouldn’t be left to students to resolve the fees issue. Moema says all stakeholders, including the Health Professions Council of South Africa, need to collaborate. “What we would have liked, instead, is for all stakeholders to understand the involvement in graduating health professionals.”
The report said the HPCSA warned on Sunday that the unstable academic environment could affect the registration of final-year health students. The deadline is December and without this, graduates cannot practice as doctors.