War in Ukraine causing chaos for international students

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War in Ukraine causing chaos for international dental students

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Ukraine is a popular destination for international dental and medical students and the invasion of the country by Russia has resulted in turmoil for the 77,000 international students who were in the country when the war began. (Image: rfranca/Shutterstock)

ABUJA, Nigeria: The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) said in June that it would not recognise medical and dental degrees obtained from Ukrainian universities in 2022. Dental graduates in the country had to wait nearly two agonising weeks before the decision was opposed by Nigerian lawmakers. Ukraine is a popular tertiary education destination for dental students and the developments in Nigeria show that disruption to their studies and trauma resulting from Russia’s invasion of the country are not the only difficulties that the students are facing.

The MDCD’s decision appeared to be based on the use of online learning at Ukrainian medical universities since the invasion. The council also called into question the suitability of online training at medical and dental schools in other countries.

The MDCN tweeted on 17 June: “Medical and dental degree certificates issued by medical schools from Ukraine from 2022 will NOT be honoured by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria until when normal academic activities resume.”

Furthermore, the council advised students currently studying medicine or dentistry in Ukraine to transfer to schools in other countries for the completion of their programmes and stated: “For the avoidance of doubt, [the] council categorically states that online medical training done in any part of the world is short of acceptable standard and is not recognised by the MDCN.”

Abuja-based Premium Times spoke with a recent medical graduate who condemned the decision. Esther Ebiru, who in June graduated from Dnipro State Medical University in Ukraine in an online ceremony, called the MDCN’s policy inhumane. “It is devastating because we did not study online for six years,” she said. “It [was] only a few months in 2020 due to COVID, which happened all over the world, and the remaining three months.” “I am clearly devastated and tired. I cannot imagine waiting for this war to be over or restarting again,” she added.

On June 28, Nigeria’s House of Representatives opposed the MDCD’s decision, saying that students who have completed their final exams should be able to register with the council and have a chance to prove themselves. Students in the 5th year of medical programmes in Ukraine should be absorbed into medical schools in Nigeria, the lawmakers urged.

More than 4,200 students from Nigeria were enrolled in Ukrainian universities in 2020 and Dental Tribune International was not able to confirm the figure for 2022.

Bleak outlook for thousands of international students who fled or remained in Ukraine

The developments in Nigeria exemplify the precarious situation experienced by foreign students enrolled in Ukrainian universities in 2022. Around 77,000 international students were in the country when the war began, according to government information, and many of them were repatriated through government evacuation programmes. Others fled Ukrainian cities for neighbouring EU states only to find that their status as non-European nationals meant that they were not entitled to free movement across the bloc or refugee support programmes directed at Ukrainian nationals.

According to the New Humanitarian, African students who fled Ukraine for neighbouring states were subjected to racism and violence at border crossings and some were not granted entry and were forced to turn back.

“[We] are in India for the last three months but so far no decision has been taken from the government’s side about our studies” – Ritvik Varshney, medical student

Ukraine is a popular tertiary education destination for students from Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, India, Israel, Morocco, Nigeria, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. More than 18,000 Indians were studying in Ukraine when Russia invaded the country in February, making them the largest national group, according to figures cited by the Kerala-based Manorama newspaper. Students who were repatriated to India under the government’s Operation Ganga evacuation programme have since staged hunger strikes together with their parents in protest against the lack of alternative study placements that have been allocated to them.

Ritvik Varshney, who was enrolled in the fourth year of a medical degree in Kharkiv when the war broke out, told the Indian newswire service IANS: “We are now forced to sit on a fast” because “we are in India for the last three months but so far no decision has been taken from the government’s side about our studies. The ministers of the government who had come to receive us had promised that [they] would ensure [our] future too.”

“We were brought home under Operation Ganga, [for which] we thank the prime minister. But if we were to be left like this, then we need not have been called back,” said Trisha Sagar, a student whose second year of studies in Ukraine was interrupted by the war.

More than 80% of Indian students in Ukraine pursue medical, dental and nursing courses, and students are mainly attracted to the country for its European culture, its low university fees and the ease of subsequent entry into academic programmes in Western Europe.

An MBBS can be completed in Ukraine for around half of what Indian students would pay at a private medical college in India, Manorama reported.

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