LAHORE: About 300 of 1,000 Pakistani students, who were studying general comprehensive medicine on HEC (Higher Education Commission) scholarships in Cuba, are facing financial constraints along with huge depression because of joblessness despite completing six-year MD (Doctor in Medicine) degrees.
After the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, Cuba had not only sent 2,500 medical and paramedical staff to take part in relief efforts, it had also offered scholarships for 1,000 students from across Pakistan, especially from northern areas, which were affected by the earthquake, to study medicine in Cuban institutions.
The scholars were expected to serve their country after completing their studies. The government of Pakistan accepted this generous offer and the HEC invited applications from talented students through advertisements. After thorough procedures, the first batch consisting of 300 students was selected for their admissions to Cuban institutions purely on merit in 2008. Later, another 700 or so students were sent to Cuba in different batches.
These medical students started facing difficulties when they started returning early this year. The first hurdle they met with was how to get a practice licence because under the latest law; they had to take a National Examination Board (NEB) test conducted by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) for this purpose.
It is compulsory for every Pakistani medical student, who has graduated from any other country, to appear in the NEB test in order to get the Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) certificate if he or she wants to start medical practice in Pakistan.
Dr Abid Ali, Dr Tayyab Mehmood Ali and other Cuban scholarship holders told Daily Times that they appreciate the scholarships programme of the Cuban government and that they were imparted quality education at leading medical universities.
They said that the first batch of around 300 scholarship holders had graduated with MD degree in February 2014 while the remaining scholars would be graduating in 2015.
They added that the objective of the scholarship programme was to train 1,000 students in medicine in such a way that they could serve their own people immediately after completion of their studies.
They said that despite clearing the final comprehensive Cuban State Exam, they were now being asked to appear in the NEB test conducted by the PMDC in order to become an RMP.
They said that they have been studying in an HEC-supervised scholarship project; therefore, it was unfair to treat them like other Pakistani medical graduates of foreign institutions, which normally did not follow any merit-based selection criterion.
They said that their parents had made numerable sacrifices and efforts at various levels throughout this period to help them complete their studies.
They said that it was not a matter concerning 1,000 individuals only; rather it was a matter concerning 1,000 families; therefore, the government should take it seriously.
They appealed to the prime minister to look into the matter personally and provide them justice.
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