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Time for graduates in health sciences to up war on virus

By Wesonga Robert | March 28th 2020

A health officer screens a resident at Cathedral Road at Afya House on March 23, 2020. [John Muchucha]

“Graduates of microbiology supposed to be making research on this coronavirus are now tailors and make-up artists.” M’Ada Agnetta Erupe, Facebook post, March 16.

The clamour to link the academy and industry has been with us for a while now. This call has been heard loud and unequivocal right from some of the highest offices in the land. While senior government officials have on several occasions scoffed at courses not scientific, high-ranking education officers in Kenya have insisted that more than ever before, apart from the urgent emphasis on science and mathematics related training, we need plumbers and electricians.

Times of catastrophe, however, are not the times to point fingers and accuse who of saying what. It is a time to spread information approved by authorities and engage in such recommended action as may be best to mitigate the disaster that we are in. As everyone braces themselves against the virus, it is time for those exposed to scientific knowledge – knowhow and know-what acquired over the years – to demonstrate it and bring it to bear. For it will be tragic, if graduates of medicine, microbiology and other health sciences were to join the layman in spreading false information and fear mongering.

While majority of us may be allowed to get scared; panic and resort to deflating our fear by spreading fear messages on social media, it will be complicated if those who have training in relevant studies took our path of trending online because of our fear mongering escapades, and specialty in spreading fake news.

Even though the need to stall Covid-19, that poses an existential threat to humanity, must be bestowed on everyone, citizens of the globe with the most relevant training must now step up and inspire confidence in the rest of us. This is a war, and those countries that have been in a war situation before will teach us that in war time, everyone trained in warfare becomes a combatant, regardless of the career they may be engaged in during peace time.

Misused line

Without putting blame on anyone, the worrying trend witnessed is that many graduates in fields that offer essential services are finding themselves taking up careers that are worlds apart from what they spent years at university training for. Although often this is lauded as dynamism, with the quite misused line that university prepares one to be creative and dynamic. Sometimes it is because of no fault of their own. The truth is, our world is much the worse because of nurses, biochemists and engineers who end up as bankers, or any career unrelated to what years of university education prepared them for.

We shall not acquit them, as long as they are medics, or in health sciences. We shall still remind them that regardless of what they do every day, they owe humanity a big favour: being on the forefront as we find the virus. This is the time when we will be willing to clutch on anything, even clichés, and remind them of what Albert Einstein said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one learnt in school.”

That said, what we should not forget to mention is the growing number of medical practitioners that leave to take up jobs in foreign countries. Sometimes it is not just the allure of bigger money that makes them leave – working in an environment where the health sector is well funded and has sufficient infrastructure and equipment is often too difficult a proposition for them to resist.


- Dr Wesonga is a lecturer in Literature at University of Kabianga, Kericho.

Covid 19 Time Series


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