SA medical students look to China

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About 100 South Africans have applied to study medicine at Chinese universities through Student Alliance, an organisation started by SA doctors who qualified in China and are now helping others with overseas studies, reports the Sunday Times.

Jacques Oostendurp’s seven distinctions were not good enough to secure him a place at local medical schools, so, according to a Sunday Times report, the the 18-year-old Mpumalanga matriculant turned to China to make his dream of becoming a doctor a reality. Concern about #FeesMustFall protests had also persuaded the Middelburg teenager to study abroad.

The report says he is one of about 100 South Africans who have applied to study medicine at Chinese universities through Student Alliance. The alliance was started by South African doctors who qualified in China and are now helping others with overseas studies. According to the alliance, about 100 doctors have qualified in China and are practising at South African hospitals after writing a medical board exam. The report says the first class of South African medical students that the alliance helped to study in China is expected to graduate next year.

Dr Irshaad Saley, who qualified in China, started Student Alliance after being rejected by South African medical schools. He said the race quota system adopted by some medical schools was still the main factor in forcing students to opt for foreign study. Safety concerns also persuaded them to go overseas. Last year, #FeesMustFall protests turned violent, forcing campuses to shut down and exams to be delayed.

“We can’t categorically state the #FeesMustFall campaign has prompted many more South Africans to go abroad to pursue their studies, although safety is a big concern for students,” Saley is quoted in the report as saying. “But South Africa remains one of the best countries in the world to train as a doctor. Most students going overseas have tried and failed to get into local universities.”

Saley said more students would consider overseas study. “As much as we have faith that the situation will get sorted … we also have to be realistic. Parents look out for the best interests of their kids, safety being at the top of the list. “For this reason I do foresee a large number of parents and students showing interest to pursue studies abroad.”

Saley, who works at a state hospital in Durban, said in the report that China had become first preference for medical students because of the cost factor. “Most of the university fees are on par with South African universities and some are cheaper. The cost of living in China is very much cheaper than in South Africa. So, overall, to send a student to study in China works out the same, if not cheaper, than sending the same student to study at a university in South Africa, away from home.”

Sunday Times report (subscription needed)

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