Former President John Dramani Mahama may have to take back his words, after claims that his administration made a conscious effort to select female Muslim students to be trained in gynaecology in Cuba has been described as false.
Speaking at the Al Sunna Eid prayers on the occasion of Eid ul-Adha at the Efua Sutherland Park in Accra last Sunday, Mr Mahama said his government deliberately decided to source girls from the Muslim communities to be part of the training, especially in the area of gynaecology.
"About six years ago, when we got scholarships to send some of our children to Cuba to train as Doctors, there was something significant we did. We deliberately decided to source girls from Muslim communities to be part of the training, especially in the area of gyneacology. Our Muslim women who have difficulty when they have to go and consult medically for their reproductive health, prefer that a female doctor looks after them. Our plan was to train female doctors from our Muslim community so that when they come back, we can strategically place them. That will make it possible for our mothers and others who want to consult for their reproductive health to have our sisters who have qualified as doctors to be able to look after them" he said.
However, at the handing-over ceremony of the Cuban-trained medical doctors by the Scholarships Secretariat at the University of Ghana, Scholarships Secretariat Registrar, Mr Kingsley Agyemang, said Mr. Mahama should be the last person to take any glory in the successful passing out of the Ghanaian doctors because his negotiation only ended up incurring more debt for the country.
“His negotiations led to Ghana paying for tuition, accommodation, feeding, monthly stipends, annual book and medical allowance, air return ticket and end-of-course shipment allowance. The arrangement burdened the national purse by over US$150,000 per trainee for the duration of the seven-year programme. This arrangement was obviously not a scholarship from the Cuban government,” he said.
He clarified that out of the 250 Ghanaians sent to Cuba, only 85 were females out of which about only 20 percent were Muslims and "if the former President had negotiated a better deal, Ghana would have had 500 students being trained as doctors by the Cuban government and not 250".
According to him on average, the government is spending no less than $150,000 on each student for the seven-year course.
“In 2012, Mahama’s negotiations led to government spending US$96,050 on each medical student. As I speak now, in 2019, the same Cuban authorities after negotiations with the present government brought the figure down to US$55,000 meaning Ghana under Mahama had a bad deal,” he said.
On assuming the reins of power, the NPP according to Mr Agyemang, paid the 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 academic years' tuition fees of the medical students, which had been ignored by President Mahama.
“What you should bear in mind as graduates is that this government, led by His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, prioritized the requests from the Cuban Medical Services for the payment of tuition and, accommodation fees which were due them for the 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 academic years. He further settled the almost a year’s stipends which had not been paid to you medical doctors, as a result of his general commitment towards empowering Ghanaian students everywhere,” he told the graduate doctors.
He said the government had also borne the statutory fees which are mandatory for every graduate doctor in order to acquire certification from the Medical and Dental Council.
Advise to young doctors
Meanwhile, the Registrar has advised the young doctors to ensure they put what they have learned into practice for the betterment of Ghanaians.
“You must reject all forms of pessimism about the notion of health delivery systems in the country, realizing that your efforts in that city, town, or village will go a long way in improving the overall health conditions of our country.
“Believe in the tools and training you have been given and know you can rise to be the best in your field if you set your mind to it.
“I want you to understand that, as a government, we empathize with you on the enormity of the work ahead and the difficulties that may come up. We are however very optimistic that your training in Cuba has put you in a better position as men and women who will not settle for our medical situation as it is, but will generate the necessary courage to bring change and relief to Ghanaians wherever you are sent,” he said.
Two hundred and twenty (220) Ghanaian students successfully graduated, out of the initial 250. Nine failed the Cuban State Exam and are to rewrite in October. Seven engaged in various infractions of the laws of the Republic of Cuba and as a result, were sent home.
Thirteen students repeated or changed their courses, and one student was brought home for medical reasons and expected to resume his studies when fully recovered.
One graduate student by name Abdul Rahman Iddrisu has allegedly bolted and two other doctors refused to tender relevant documents to the Ghanaian diplomatic mission in Havana.