In 2013, Governor Rauf Aregbesola-led administration in the State of Osun sponsored 85 stranded Medical Students of the Osun State University (UNIOSUN) to V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Kharkov, Ukraine for the completion of their medical training, as there was no Teaching Hospital in Nigeria to absorb them for their clinical classes. On Saturday, August 12, 2017, the medical students returned to Nigeria as medical doctors, having completed their training.
ISMAIL USMAN chronicles the journey of the young doctors and the successes recorded afterwards.
A 1957-born American activist, Randi Weingarten in one of his public addresses said, “A high-quality public education can build much-needed skills and knowledge. It can help children reach their God-given potential. It can stabilise communities and democracies. It can strengthen economies. It can combat the kind of fear and despair that evolves into hatred.”
When Governor Rauf Aregbesola of the State of Osun was aspiring to contest the governorship election in 2007, he came up with an action plan that has today become the bible and Quran of his administration. One of the manifestoes summarised to ‘Six-point Integral Action Plan’ is “Promotion of functional education”. For Aregbesola, education is number one priority. It is the foundation of development we earnestly work for and it is our passport to that future of enduring socio-economic greatness.’
Education in Osun has been in the limelight, receiving bashes and commendations from members of the public since the inception of Aregbesola’s administration. It is the most critical sector that has projected Aregbesola’s government and at the same time made it controversial because of the innovative ideas brought into the revamping of the sector.
Few days ago, newspapers and social media were awash with news and pictures of the return of medical Students of Osun State University who were sent to Ukraine by the Aregbesola’s administration for medical studies. The government had sent 85 medical students of the Osun State University (UNIOSUN) to the V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Kharkov, Ukraine in January 2013 to study medicine when they could not proceed to clinical class as a result of none-availability of Teaching Hospital in UNIOSUN.
The V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Kharkov was established in 1804 and remains one of the best in Europe. The university has produced three nobel laureates who were trained and had worked with the university.
The first set of the UNIOSUN students were admitted for medicine in September 2007, the second set were admitted in 2008 and the third set were admitted in 2009 during the regime of former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola. The first, second and third set students were due for clinical class in 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively.
The students could not go for the clinical class in UNIOSUN because the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) did not approve the class for the university, hence, there was no teaching hospital to absorb them. The development left the students stranded as their fates were hanging in the balance. There was suggestion that Asubiaro General Hospital should be upgraded to a teaching hospital for UNIOSUN, but the Ministry of Health, as it was learnt, objected to the suggestion as it deem it that the general hospital is the secondary healthcare centre in Osogbo and it would be a disservice and counter-productive to give out the hospital to UNIOSUN. Besides, it was estimated that the state government needed more than N1.5billion to upgrade the general hospital to a teaching hospital, while it was also not certain that the MDCN would approve it for the clinical class. Besides, it took the first set of medical students of the Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH) seven to ten years to proceed on clinical class, even after Chief Bisi Akande, the Governor of Osun state between 1999-2003 established the teaching hospital with close to N2bn then. What this implies is that the upgrade of the Asubiaro General Hospital, Osogbo could not be a license that the affected UNIOSUN students would proceed on their clinical training immediately.
Governor Aregbesola said the decision to send the 85 (three sets) UNIOSUN medical students to abroad was not easy, but became obligatory when there was no university in Nigeria to absolve the number of affected students. The University of Ibadan, University of Lagos and University of Ilorin were approached, but refused to admit the students for the clinical class. Questions were asked on the rationale behind sending the students to Ukraine. The opposition parties did not spare Aregbesola of accusations and mischievous statements.
Dr Simeon Afolayan, a retired Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Health and Chairman of Osun State Health Committee, explained that “It is true that the National Universities Commission gave the College of Health Sciences of UNIOSUN accreditation. That was, however, not enough to train medical students. If it was, why couldn’t the students sit for the first professional exam that could enable them proceed for clinical training after spending so many years in the pre-clinical classes (Some of the students had been in the university for up to six years by that time). That could not be done because Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria had not given accreditation to the course simply because there was no accreditable teaching hospital in place. What was in place was the State Hospital Asubiaro, which up till now, like most of such hospitals all over the country, is a glorified comprehensive health centre.
“As at that time, LAUTECH teaching hospital, that had been in existence for over 12 years and with all the huge amount of money invested on it, had its accreditation suspended. One can therefore imagine how much money would be required to upgrade Asubiaro to an acceptable standard. The UNIOSUN authorities, with the blessings of the state government, made frantic efforts to contact other universities within the country to take in the students for clinical training. Not one of them could, though they were not unwilling. This was because of fear of exceeding the MDCN quota.
“The students at that stage were faced with only one option: that of having their dreams of becoming medical doctors aborted. Ogbeni Aregbesola would not have this happen to these young people. A committee was set up to find a way forward. It was headed by Her Excellency, Otunba Titi Laoye-Tomori, the Deputy Governor and Commissioner for Education. Members included Hon. Commissioner for Health, Permanent Secretary for Education, Permanent Secretary for Health, the Vice Chancellor UNIOSUN, the Provost College of Health Sciences UNIOSUN, Director of Medical Services SHMB, among others.
“After exhausting possible options, a decision was made to send the students out of the country to complete their medical education. Many countries were considered, including but not limited to USA, UK, Cuba, China, Georgia, Poland, Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine. In fact, the issue about Poland and Ukraine emanated from the University representatives as countries they had considered. Contacts were made and necessary emissaries were sent. A final decision was reached to send the students to Ukraine. The whole process took about 10 months. You will agree with me that this was a record time considering the amount of work needed to be done”, Afolayan recounted.
The students were sent to Ukraine to further their studies in medicine in January, 2013 and the rest today is history.
In June this year, 50 of the UNIOSUN students graduated from the Ukraine University and were certified as medical doctors. One of the medical students, Miss Latifat Abiola Oyeleye was declared the overall best medical student of the Karazin Kharkiv National University as well as the 2017 overall best student in the entire Ukraine with an outstanding score of 95.6% in KROK 2 Exams. The rest of the students will graduate next year.
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, 35 of the medical students came back to Nigeria via the Muritala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. They were received by a state government delegation led by the Commissioner for Innovation, Science and Technology, Engr Remi Omowaiye and Special Adviser to the Governor on Higher Education, Bursary and Scholarship, Prof Grace Akinola. About 15 of the medical students stayed back in Ukraine for future pursuit.
The young medical doctors are: Adegunle Rebecca Temitope, Adekanmbi Bakare Oladipupo, Adekunle Aisha Titilope, Adeleke Abdulsamad, Adetunbi Ebunola Mabel, Adewale Adedoyin Adebimpe, Ajayi Titilayo Temilola, Akinyemi Rukayat Abiola, Awotunde Akinwumi Gabriel, Eminowa Tomisin Ruth, Faniyi Adeola Omolabake, Garuba Khadijah Abiola, Igbinlade Adedamola Segun, Odejayi Segun Idris, Odewale Bosede Omolara, Ogunbiyi Praise Ajitoronini, Oguntoye Olufemi Kolawole, Ojo Blessing Isaac, Ojo Kafayat Adesewa, Olu-Balogun Vivian Ifeoluwa, Oluwsayo Motunrayo, Oyelami Omotola Olubunmi, Oyeleye Lateefah Abiola (Overall best student), Shenge Yetunde Olamide, Tijani Aliyu Adekilekun, Adebusuyi Annetta Gbolayide, Adeyemo Khafilat Kehinde, Afolabi Omotolani Basirat, Ayodele Peace Adetoke, Ezekoye Maria Chizoba, Folarin Marian Olufunmilayo, Obayelu Oluwatobi Cynthia, Ogidi Omareyemi Veronica, Olaoye Serah Opeyemi and Akala Oluwatosin Sakirah.
Receiving the young doctors at the Government House, Osogbo on Sunday, Aregbesola explained that sending the students to Ukraine was not about nationalism, but about justice and fairness, stating that the students were admitted for medicine and it behooves the university and government to fulfill their obligations. He said, “It was not easy to take this decision no matter what anyone says. It was a difficult task. It was even hectic getting visas for 85 medical students to leave Nigeria for Ukraine.
“Though, the state’s decision was ignorantly criticised, blackmailed and scandalously portrayed by the opposition and mischief-makers, but our government remained undaunted, resilient, dogged and unshakable to make this feat a success. This commitment has today helped us to defeat the propagandists, mischief-makers and rancorous sponsors by all ramifications. I did all in the interest of fairness and justice to ensure that the state fulfills her part of agreement made to the medical students while advertising the sale of forms for the course. We did this because we believed that having admitted the students for the course which they applied for, then it is mandatory on us to ensure that they become medical doctors. We had advertised the medical course and admitted the students, it is the obligation of the government to see the students through the programme. Human will only succeed when they uphold justice and fairness. So, what informed our decision on these students is justice and fairness.
Aregbesola who said education is not about one discipline, but about having skills, motivation and knowledge, said he was happy and proud for the success in the academic programme of the young doctors.
He urged the young doctors to be professional, humane and godly in discharging their duties in hospitals and everywhere they find themselves. He implored the newly graduated medical doctors to maintain the virtues which made them excel in Ukraine, encouraging them to always put their patients first in the discharge of their duties.
The Governor said, “We are celebrating with you today, but it will be good of you if you stick to those virtues that had made you successful in Ukraine by being compassionate towards your patients at all times. We are proud of you on your achievements and I believe you have just started. You must strive to reach the peak of your profession as medical doctors. You should be compassionate towards your patients at all times.”
The Deputy Governor of the State, Mrs. Grace Titi-Laoye Tomori said despite the fact that the challenges that faced UNIOSUN and the medical students were inherited by the Aregbesola’s administration, the Governor did not bother to ensure that the students proceed in their academic pursuit, as he weathered storms to take them to the promised land, saying, “We were at a time advised to withdraw this programme but Mr. Governor refused because he wanted to ensure that the dream of the students is realised”.
The Deputy Governor, who described the sponsored doctors as assets to Nigeria and black race, said it is on record that the beneficiaries portrayed Nigeria and Africa in good light while they were undergraduate at the Ukraine University. She said the newly inducted medical doctors demonstrated high sense of moral standards and Omoluabi ethos which according to her has changed positively the impression of those the new doctors met in the course of their studies in Ukraine.
“They have made us proud. They have done well because asides the fact that they consistently became first in their various fields of studies, they equally set a pace on human morality, standard and values”, the deputy governor said, commending the parents of the new medical doctors for their support and cooperation with the government in ensuring the success of the sponsored doctors.
In his remarks at the airport, the Commissioner for Innovation, Science and Technology, Engr. Remi Omowaiye said, “Most of the promises made are now promises kept. Despite the fact that the state sponsored these students through their graduation, the Governor also mandated us to get them registered with Medical and Dental Council Nigeria, MDCN for their professional licensing.We thank God today that a difficult task has become a success story because in spite of the challenges, blackmails and abuses, we record huge success on this commendable initiative. Governor Aregbesola has done wonderfully well to ensure that these students attain greatness in life; even at a time of economic hardship, we suggested to Mr Governor to at least drop some of the students who are not from the state, but he insisted that in as much as blood runs in his veins, he will ensure the completion of their programmes.”
In his words, the Vice Chancellor, Osun State University, Professor Labo Popoola said no government in the world has done what Aregbesola did in the education sector. He said no government in the history of Nigeria has sponsored and trained 85 medical students at a time, a feat which he said has become a model in Nigeria and Africa. The VC who lamented the decadence in the university education in the country, said it is time for all to rise in finding solution to myriads of challenges bedeviling the university system in the country.
Professor Popoola said, “I am happy today to see these doctors, but the greatest joy remains in the fact that Osun has made the record in history because no government on this planet has trained 85 doctors at a time in Nigeria. So, Aregbesola’s landmark is un-rivalry in all sectors most especially in the area of education as many testimonies had proved the impacts of the state. This is a challenge on everyone of us particularly governments at different levels and states. It is a time to pursue vision that will impact greatly in people’s lives. Our governments need to be more conscious about the welfare of the people and do more by affecting positively on education which is the bedrock of development.”
Speaking on behalf of the parents, Reverend Reuben Fakolade commended Aregbesola for seeing through the academic success of the sponsored doctors, saying the decision to take 85 medical students to overseas in furtherance of their studies depicts high sense of compassion and determination that Aregbesola has for education and people’s welfare.
Describing Aregbesola as a detribalised leader and non-religious bigot, Fakolade noted that the Governor has proven to be a leader with no measure, saying, “As much as I am happy today for being one of the parents of the medical doctors who benefited from the state education scholarship, I am also enthused that Aregbesola has proven his traducers wrong. The number of Christians among the then medical students now medical doctors sponsored to Ukraine by Aregbesola’s government shows that Mr Governor is not anti-Christian. It also shows that Aregbesola is not a religious bigot as being painted by his critics as facts show that Christians made more list than muslims among the UNIOSUN medical doctors. With this development, Aregbesola has shown to the world that he is not what some alleged him of. He doesn’t discriminate and he is not a religious fanatic. He is a man, unique governor of all and worthy leader par excellence.
In their remarks, the students attributed their academic success to Aregbesola’s commitment to promoting functional education and concern on their plights when they were stranded in UNIOSUN. They promised to embark on service to humanity and give back to the community, particular Osun state in appreciation of their free medical studies.
Oyeleye, the overall best student who studied Cardiology said, “I am one of the beneficiaries of Aregbesola’s gesture, I am one of the 85 medical students sponsored by his administration to one of the best universities in the world. We have studied and graduated. We thank God that today, we have been made medical doctors through the support of Osun Government. It is a dream come true for me and my family. Osun Government has made history through this, Governor Aregbesola has done excellently well in our lives to attain this giant feat in academic because if not for him, we might not be celebrated like this today. I wonder what would become of our dream if Governor Aregbesola had not shown concern.
Another beneficiary, Dr. Oluwasayo Motunrayo said, “I will forever be grateful to Aregbesola for making our dreams come to pass. He has done well to ensure that we did not fail in meeting up with our medical carreer in life.”
Ezekoye Maria, an indigene of Anambra state, who is part of the medical students, said, “We had lost hope when there was no teaching hospital to proceed to for our medical studies at UNIOSUN, we were all stranded. But Governor Aregbesola restored our hope, he made us realise our dreams by sending us to one of the best universities in the world for completion of our medical studies free of charge. Today, we are certified medical doctors. We are all proud of Osun government.”
The medical students have been enrolled for the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria’s License Examination at the University of Ilorin. Some people have again been criticising the enrolment of the students, questioning the essence of sending them to Ukraine.
But Dr Afolayan explained that “as for further training and exams, all foreign medical graduates, irrespective of countries of training, must undergo compulsory pre-registration qualifying examination organised by MDCN.”
The success story of the UNIOSUN medical students has added a fresh feather to the landmark achievement of Aregbesola in the education sector.
PARTICIPANTS FROM UBEC
S/ N Name Designation Gender
- Senator Rose Okoh Deputy Chairman Senate F Committee on Education
- Dr. Hamid Bobboyi Executive Secretary UBEc M
- Mahmud Mohammed Sani Special Assistant to Hon.
Minister of Education on ICT M
- Personal Assistant PA Deputy Chairman Senate M
Committee on Basic Education
- Oluremi Adeola Onabanjo Asst. Dir. Int’l Economic Relation
Dept. (IRED) Federal Min. of Finance M
- Prince Awofisayo Felix Executive Chairman SUBEB (Sub-Deen M
South-West) Director, Social Mobilization UBEC
- Bello Husaini Project Cordinator UBEC M
- Iro Umar Senior Project officer (Comm.) M
– SEPIP UBEC
- Moses Oyishe EMIS Officer SEPIP/UBEC M
- Akila Dabara A.D. Teacher Prof. Dev. UBEC M
- Mayowa Aleshin Prin. Prog. ICT SEPIP/UBEC M
- Ibrahim Bala Bakari Zonal director UBEC N.W M
- Mansir Idris Deputy Director Q.A. UBEC N.E Zone M
- Hassan D. Umar Deputy Director Audit UBEC M
- Badamasi Musa Pers. Asst. (Legal) M
- Barr. Suleiman Modibbo UBEC M