Durban - Medical students are turning to crowdfunding to help pay off their huge medical school bills.
Lerato Madolo, 21, is an aspiring doctor who has just completed her first year studies in MBChB: Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Madolo has racked up a R67996 bill for her first year alone, which is only going to get worse as she progresses. She is expected to graduate in 2023.
With bursary prospects not forthcoming, Madolo joined a growing band of students by signing up to Feenix, a crowdfunding platform that was started as a response to the #FeesMustFall movement.
“I was born prematurely so I was very sick as a baby, and each time I was sick, there were health professionals who helped me get better.
“I feel these health care professionals gave me a chance in life, I want to do the same for other people who cannot see past their sicknesses,” said Madolo.
“Becoming a doctor, for me, will be an ultimate opportunity to help people from all walks (of life) regardless of circumstance or socio-economic status. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling career.”
Madolo falls within what the government has termed “the missing middle”, those too rich for NSFAS (National Students Financial Aid Scheme) and too poor for university.
When former president Jacob Zuma announced the implementation of free education for all NSFAS- eligible students, he did not specify a way to deal with the missing middle students.
Madolo’s path has not been straightforward: she matriculated in 2015, but did not have the required maths aptitude for medical school.
She earned a BSc Medical Bioscience at UWC which then qualified her to pursue her dream of being a doctor.
“I got to UKZN and felt there is a whole supportive community in place to make sure I get all the support I need to get good results while my social life is still in balance,” she said.
With the country currently considering the implementation of the National Health Insurance, one of the main criticisms of the plan has been the lack of professional health practitioners in public hospitals.
Speaking in Parliament this year, Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize acknowledged there was a shortage of medical staff because of a brain drain, with doctors choosing to practise overseas.
Although Madolo is in favour of the NHI, she is also of the view that there are major structural improvements that still need to happen in the field.
“The NHI seeks to address the unequal structure of the nation’s health system.
“Numerous people may argue that it is a waste of the state’s money but in my opinion it is critical. It will ensure that everyone, regardless of race, class, gender and socio-economic status, has access to quality, affordable personal health services based solely on their health needs,” she said.
There are hundreds of students like Madolo on Feenix.