In a move to address a severe shortage in the veterinary sector in South Africa, a new programme was launched this week, awarding about 60 bursaries.
There is a shortage of veterinarians and para-veterinary professionals in South Africa.
Internationally, the norm is to have between 200 and 400 vets per million of the country’s population and South Africa has around 60 to 70 vets per million, according to the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA).
There is a shortage not only of vets but also para-veterinary professionals, such as veterinary nurses, animal health technicians and veterinary technologists.
The University of Pretoria, however, told The Star that its Faculty of Veterinary Science produces closer to about 40 students of colour per year.
“To give you an indication of the lack of transformation, the University of Pretoria produces around 160 veterinarians in a year and of that number only around 14 are students of colour,” said HWSETA chairperson Dr Nomfundo Mnisi.
To address the shortage, HWSETA together with the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, launched a veterinary career guidance awareness programme on Monday and announced that they would be awarding no less than 60 veterinary science and veterinary nursing bursaries.
Mnisi said the key to tackling the shortage issue was reaching out to students in rural areas where there is less awareness around animal health.
“The veterinary sector is not widely known across all sectors of society. Animal health awareness is especially poor in rural areas. It is important to create awareness around the concept of ‘one health’ which incorporates human health, animal health and the health of the environment,” she said.
HWSETA said the programme would be visiting numerous schools in rural areas across the Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and Limpopo to encourage learners to consider a career in veterinary services.
The school visits, which are part of a broader campaign called Breaking Barriers – Encouraging Black Youth to Take Up Veterinary Professions, will also feature talks by guests promoting the sector and an opportunity to see the career in action through a mobile veterinary clinic.
Deputy Minister Buti Manamela, who spoke at the launch, said too many learners were matriculating without mathematics and sciences, which limited career opportunities
“Why is it that learners with good results in mathematics and sciences, especially black young 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,” Manamela said.
HWSETA said that, as part of the programme, high school learners at the schools involved who meet entry requirements into the faculty of veterinary science and have a keen interest will also be awarded bursaries towards achieving their veterinary ambitions.
They added that all students of colour who are accepted to study veterinary science and veterinary nursing at the University of Pretoria in 2023, by June 30 this year, will also receive bursaries.
“Greater veterinary and para-veterinary awareness requires support by all sectors to ensure adequate education, training, mentorship, transformation and development,” Mnisi said.