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Drive under way to get more black people to become veterinarians

A veterinarian holds a kitten. Picture: File

A veterinarian holds a kitten. Picture: File

Published May 20, 2022


Pretoria - People of colour are being encouraged to use opportunities available to them in the veterinary sector, which is undergoing a severe shortage of human resources.

The Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority this week launched a Veterinary Career Guidance Awareness Programme, to counter the shortage of both veterinarians and para-veterinarians, and address the shortage of black veterinarians and para-veterinarians.

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Its chairperson, Dr Nomfundo Mnisi, said to give an indication of the lack of transformation, the University of Pretoria produced around 160 veterinarians in a year, of which only 14 were students of colour.

Mnisi said they were, together with the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, committed to addressing this concerning issue.

Mnisi said they would be going into schools in rural areas in provinces where farming is dominant.

“As part of our efforts to assist transformation, high school learners at the schools involved, who meet entry requirements into the faculty of Veterinary Science at University of Pretoria and who apply and are accepted, will be awarded full bursaries for their studies.

“No fewer than 60 bursaries will be awarded.”

For the duration of the studies, the beneficiaries will get their tuition, accommodation and books covered, with the organisation also offering bursaries and work-integrated learning for para-veterinarians.

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Mnisi said this would include veterinary medicine and veterinary nursing medicine.

She said in rural areas, farmers largely depended on the services of vets and para-vets located in urban centres, who need to drive long distances to examine and treat sick animals.

“It is critical for farmers and pet owners in rural areas to be made aware of the importance of proper preventative veterinary care to ensure optimal animal health.

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“Vets also play a role in ensuring food security by keeping farmers informed about how to reduce disease-related mortalities and production losses.”

Although there is a shortage in the sector, there has been an improvement in recent years, from 120 to 160 graduates per year. However, Mnisi said the improvement favoured the urban areas, with a less than desired number coming from, and also servicing, the rural areas.

The sector has numerous careers associated with veterinary science. Job opportunities include being a private veterinarian, a state veterinarian, a lecturer, a researcher, as well as jobs in the pharmaceutical industry, feed companies, wildlife veterinarian, to mention a few.

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"Aside from becoming a vet, there are also para-veterinary professionals, such as veterinary nurses, animal health technicians, veterinary technologists, veterinary physiotherapist and laboratory animal technicians,” said Mnisi.

Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Buti Manamela, who attended the launch, said too few learners were matriculating with mathematics core and sciences and this limits career opportunities.

“Why is it that learners with good results in mathematics and sciences, especially young black people, are not entering the veterinary sciences career path?

“Is it about misplaced perceptions of the veterinary sciences?

“It could also be about access to information and the myth that this profession is one that is reserved for young white people. We must work together to correct this wrongly held perception,” he said.

Pretoria News