Neglect of Biomedical Sciences in Nigeria by Muhammad Muhammad Alhaji
The state of Biomedical Science courses in Nigerian Universities is penitent. The present and the future can forgive other courses like Mathematics, Art, Sociology and business allied courses since they are mostly theoretical based. But courses in the field of Engineering, medicine and life sciences need serious overhaul.
I will restrict my write-up to the field of biomedical sciences. Since it is the field in which I was trained. Upon my entry to the department, I saw this striking label (see the picture above) containing “Electron Microscope and Tissue Culture Research Suite, Human Cytogenetic Laboratory, Histochemistry and Tissue typing/Leprosy Research Laboratories.” The label has an arrow indicating where those laboratories can be found.The irony is, upon my entry into the labs, I wasn’t able to spot the Electron Microscope. I consoled myself; perhaps, it has been moved. I continued my explorative quest to see the other labs indicated on the label. Alas! It was either the labs were empty or locked. I began to wonder, am I truly in the right department. I had to check my admission letter to confirm my doubt.
That was how my first day in the department began. I wondered if other universities in the countries were having the same glitches. I continued with my studies unabated. But then, I continued to wonder if truly my course is related to Medicine at all, even at offering the same course right from the beginning till somewhere in our third year.
It was sometime around 26th of July, 2012 when I attended an International Conference organized by another big University in the country that I realised the rot in the sector isn’t restricted to my University alone. A Doctor by profession presented a paper which happened to be the area I picked for my undergraduate research. He talked with so much confidence and assurance, but then I realised that something huge was missing in his presentation. I wanted to ask him, “I have to ask him why his presentation was lacking this huge component” I thought. To my utter surprise, he said he has never heard of what I asked him. “But this is an International Conference, chaired by the Former Vice Chancellor of the famous University of Ghana” I muttered. Of course, he was applauded but chagrined at my question. The content of his presentation was too poor to be registered in his CV. Out of curiosity; I found that he was a graduate of that same University and a lecturer.
In that same gathering, the guest Speaker, Dr Ibrahim Wada of Nisa Hospital Abuja, the first Doctor to have delivered a test tube baby in Nigeria presented a paper. I was so satisfied to the brim; he presented his paper with so much eloquence and mastery of its content not leaving out the moral and religious implications of his paper, and he carried everyone in the gathering along. Even the principal Officials applauded extra for him. I comforted myself, “At last, we have somebody trained in Nigeria that is so practical” I thought, but I was dead wrong when he announced that he left the country and studied under a reputable scientist in UK.
The Organiser of that same Conference, a knighted professor by her Majesty, the Queen of England; Dr (Sir) Oluwole Ogunratispoke. He was so good that I guessed, “Not made in Nigeria” and I was right, he was only prepared in Nigeria. This man is arguably more than Prof Keith Moore, and he has made important discovery in medical field. Those in the field of medicine would frown at this statement, but it is true, he has so much recognition in the UK than in Nigeria. He has written several books in all the field of Medicine, yes I mean all. He is the author of “Degree Anatomy” the book that is making waves in UK medical schools, which is; if not bigger it will equal the size of the conventional Keith Moore Anatomy book we Nigerians use. “Why are we not using this man’s book”, I wondered. He even created a virtual medical school check at (www.oluwoleogunranti.com) and this man is a Nigerian that is not been celebrated.
Soon enough I realised that it wasn’t the Lecturers, but the lack of Infrastructure in this field that is hampering our progress. This sector is been neglected by the Government, Simply put, as my able HOD (who has also enjoined the taste of Education abroad) will always say, intellectual resources are better than natural resources. During one of his classes, he points to one 20cl bottle; he asked if any of us know the price of that reagent bottle. Nobody knew, the bottle cost $200 and he asked how much is one barrel of crude oil? Of course we knew that, less than $100. I can carry hundreds of that bottle on my back (help with the maths) but I can’t carry even fifty barrel of crude oil on my back (that would be suicide)
I must commend the lecturers who tried their best in forging the Practical classes into theory just because there were no necessary gizmos for the courses. Thump up for them.
During our final undergraduate project defence, two presentations that took the glory of that day were made by my colleagues; One was related to the histological damage of the testicular tissues he noticed in Wistar rats after administration of the much adorn Combination-Therapy for the treatment of malaria (Artesunate and Amodiaquine), and the other was related to the fixative capabilities of ethanolic extract of Moringa plant. The extract fixes tissues excellently that you can hardly differentiate the tissue been fixed by Haematoxyllin and Eosin (H&E), remember, this H&E is been imported with huge sum of $ and our ‘innocent’ moringa plants are found locally in the northern part of the country abundantly. The best recognition they got were some rap of claps. ‘Shikenan!’ As an Hausa man will put it. At most, the Supervisors may publish those findings, and the students if lucky, will see their name hidden in et al.
It is the same stories even in the teaching hospitals; the students hardly get their hands on practical application, instead, theory rules. Government can realise so much by developing this field. If the statement of ‘one step at a time’ should be applied, then Government should look in this direction in its bid to reduce medical tourism abroad.
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