UKZN med school quotas biased: ANC
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Durban - The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal wants to meet the University of KZN’s Medical School over its quota policy, which excludes hundreds of Indian students each year.
Party provincial chairman, Sihle Zikalala, on Wednesday said the Indian community had approached the party to complain they were being “unduly prejudiced” by the quota system which allocates 19% of the first year intake to Indian students.
“The exclusion of clearly deserving cases is of special concern,” Zikalala said.
He said the ANC was committed to the redress of past imbalances that marginalised black South Africans.
“We recognise the differentiated discrimination that was experienced by our people.
“The ANC leadership is now seeking a meeting with UKZN to better understand the thinking that informs their admission policy.
“Ultimately we are keen to relook the model with the view to expanding opportunities for medical education.
“The provincial government’s engagement with external parties, like Manipal University, remains a work in progress,” he said.
Hundreds of South Africans - many of them Indian students affected by the quota system - have been forced to study medicine in countries such as China, Mauritius and India because of the limited number of places available at South African universities.
Those returning from their studies overseas have to pass the mandatory Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) board exam before they can practise in the country.
Figures from the HPCSA that the Daily News saw last year revealed that only 60% of returning medical students passed the board exam.
Zikalala said they were mindful that several hundred students had gone overseas to study medicine and that many of those returning had to sit for special exams.
“We must be able to regularise their re-entry in such a way that they can take local university courses to meet the requirements of the Health Professions Council.
“Our constant approach as the ANC is leading, listening and solving problems in our diverse communities.
“We don’t just preach unity in diversity. The medical school issue is just one example of our people turning to the ANC for a solution. No other party has that capacity,” he said.
Lesiba Seshoka, UKZN spokesman, said the university’s medical school quota was implemented in accordance with “national imperatives”.
“(It is) designed to ensure an equitable spread of medical professionals to serve the South African population. The university is unaware of any request from the ANC but is always open to constructive discussions regarding our enrolment policy,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ANC’s concern about how the quota system was being applied to Indian students was brushed off on Wednesday as electioneering.
Ashwin Singh, spokesman for the South African Minority Rights Equality Movement, said it was typical of the ANC to review its policies to the Indian community during an election period.
He said the Indian community heard the same promises during every election and nothing changed.
“The Indian community only gets 2% of their pupils into medical school and they must get more than 90% in matric to get in. Coloured pupils only need to get 65% in matric and African pupils anything from 60%.
“Their argument against the Indian children is that if it was based on merit the whole medical school would be Indian.
“We need to end quotas. The reason why the Health Department is facing R1 billion in lawsuits is because of the unfair quota system,” he said.
Dr Imran Keeka, the DA’s spokesman on health in KZN, said the ANC was using the issue around Indian students and quotas at the UKZN Nelson Mandela Medical School as a “tool for cheap politics”.
“The DA is committed to a merit-based system.
“The injustices of the past need to be redressed, but they will not be redressed by how the ANC wants them to be redressed.
“The ANC is not the party to solve the problem because they continue to divide and marginalise the people of South Africa based on race, while the DA is the most diverse party in the country that unites all people and is keeping to the values of Nelson Mandela,” he said.
Makgalo Neo, UKZN Medical School’s SRC deputy president, declined to comment on Wednesday.
Khaye Nkwanyana, spokesman for the Department of Higher Education said universities were autonomous when it came to issues of enrolment.
He said the department, however, could not comment on the issue of quotas because it had not been raised with it by UKZN.
How does system work?
The University receives about 8 300 applications for 250 places offered by the medical school. Of the total intake of first year MBChB students, places are reserved for students from Quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools. The quota system is as follows: 69% black African, 19% Indian, 9% coloured, 2% white and 1% other.
To be eligible for placement in the MBChB programme, all candidates must have achieved a minimum of 60% (level 5) in each of the following subjects, with an aggregate of 65% in the subjects: mathematics, physical sciences, life sciences and English.