DURBAN - Students who had to pursue their dream of becoming doctors by studying abroad because they could not get into Durban's medical school were furious when they heard of the R500 000 places-for-sale scandal at the University of KwaZulu-Natal last week.
Some said their families were burdened with debt as a result of sending them abroad as well as emotional stress, but they had to do it because no university in the country would accept them.
One doctor, Nikita Doorgha, 24, from Umhlatuzana, Chatsworth, said she and some of her colleagues scored distinctions in matric but were refused entry to the school.
“We had a passion and a drive for medicine, to help people and follow the most noble career known to man.
"Despite our distinctions, our applications were not considered. I heard of friends with no distinctions studying medicine,” said Doorgha.
She had no choice but to leave the country.
“We left our homes and families and everything we knew to study abroad.
"We returned and gladly endured all the paperwork, Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, and Board exams to prove our integrity as doctors.
"But now we hear wealthy children bought their way into a career that we have devoted our lives to and cost our families almost three times as much. This hurts us.”
She said being a doctor meant you gave a piece of your daily life to your patient.
“Death and sickness plague your thoughts daily. There are a million careers that can give you status and money but medicine is for those who want to become a humanitarian.
“Doctors are the real superheroes, or so I thought. To know there are doctors who just craved the title and status to the extent they were willing to buy a place instead of earning it, I shudder to think how patients are being treated by such superficial beings."
Another Durban doctor, Irshaad Saley, who created Student Alliance to help deserving scholars study in China, said he formed the organisation because he, too, had difficulties getting into every medical school in the country in 2007.
He said he and his students were outraged when they heard about what had allegedly been going on at UKZN.
“We are upset by the lengths we had to take and the sacrifices our parents had to make to send us to study abroad to get a medical degree, something that is so easy buy here.
"At the same time, we do not regret the choices we had to make to study abroad. It is still way better than doing something illegal.
"The right way is not always the easy way, but it is always the better way and will have more blessings,” said Saley.
Musgrave resident Reaz Moolla, who also studied medicine in China, said he had applied to Wits University, UKZN as well as the UCT.
“It was a big change for my family and I. Many sacrifices had to be made for me to become a doctor.
"But when you hear about people being able to buy places, it makes you wonder. It is cheaper to pay a R500 000 bribe here as opposed to going abroad.
"But no ethical doctor would do this,” said Moolla.
Nikita Doorgha gives a breakdown of her figures to study in abroad.
● Fees for full course: R950 000 ($72 000)
● Living expenses over five years: R75 000
● Air tickets over five years: R70 000
TOTAL ESTIMATED COST: R1.1 million