Delayed funding threatens doctors’ scholarships

Delays to process funding have put about 40 Malawian medical doctors on scholarships abroad at risk of expulsion from studies.

National Aids Commission (NAC), which is funding the doctors’ studies, said the money for the scholarships is being processed.

scholarNAC received funding from the Global Fund for the scholarships and has been funding Malawi doctors to study various post-graduate programmes abroad.

The scholarships cover tuition, medical insurance, book allowance and conference allowance, among others.

While NAC is attributing the delay to logistical hiccups, the doctors—some in the second year and others in third year of their four-year programmes—claim that they are not allowed to attend classes.

Said one of the doctors: “We are being told that our scholarships’ funds have run out. We now face a life without support and without pay in foreign countries and mind you, some have their families here [in South Africa].”

Prior to going to South Africa for the post-graduate studies, the doctors were moved to the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine (CoM) Blantyre Campus, which administered the scholarships.

“We are now informed that CoM claimed ‘school fees’ for the time we were in Malawi [an amount more than the school fees paid in South Africa],” said the doctor.

Another doctor said he decided to do away with the NAC funding and is sourcing fees money from elsewhere to avoid missing studies.

But NAC acting executive director Davie Kalomba said the doctors have not been abandoned. He said their scholarship fees are being processed.

He said: “NAC has not stopped funding post-graduate health workers training programme. NAC is working with College of Medicine to submit a disbursement request and supporting documentation to facilitate the next funding tranche.”

On NAC’s role in the training of doctors who fall under the Ministry of Health, the registrar said NAC comes in because it is the principal recipient of HIV and Aids grants to the government of Malawi from Global Fund.

Said Kalomba: “Pre-service and post-graduate training of health workers are some of the areas for which the Government of Malawi requested funding from Global Fund to support health systems strengthening efforts through these grants. This included strengthening of human resources for health such as increased training output and skills of health workers.”

He, however, expressed ignorance that some doctors have started sourcing money from somewhere for their fees.

CoM assistant registrar (academic) Martin Matululu referred the matter to registrar Chifundo Trigu who was reported to be out of office until next week.

Medical students have been facing problems accessing scholarship funds from government in recent years.

For example, Mzuzu University (Mzuni) nursing students had problems with scholarships, which resulted into disruption of learning.

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