Chris Ewokor, BBC News, Abuja
The news from the Medical Council of Nigeria could not have been more cruel to the student, Moses Damilola Fehintola.
After being trapped by the war in Ukraine earlier this year, he was relieved to be able to escape and continue his medical studies online.
But one day his phone rang with a WhatsApp message written in capital letters informing him that his distance learning diplomas would not be recognized after all.
The language was cold and formal.
“We would like to inform the general public that medical and dental degrees awarded by medical faculties in Ukraine from 2022 will not be awarded by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria until normal academic activities resume.
Mr. Fehintola jumps up and his vision is blurred for a moment. “Jesus,” she whispers in exasperation.
“What is going on ?” her mother asks, looking into her face as they drive to a local market in Oyo state. Mr. Fehintola mumbles a few words and tries to downplay the situation.
“The news hit me hard… So many thoughts flooded my mind,” he recalls. “Actually, I was looking forward to graduating in Ukraine no matter what.”
He was in his sixth and final year of study at the Ukrainian State University in Sumy, months away from graduation, when the city was besieged by invading Russian troops.
The 22-year-old was stuck for several weeks before he could return home. He was among more than 1,000 Nigerians, mostly students, who returned from Ukraine.
Despite the fierce fighting, Sumy State University and other Ukrainian institutions managed to continue offering online courses, so Mr. Fehintola believed he could still fulfill his dream of working as a doctor.
However, his plans are now reduced to nothing.
“I am currently in Nigeria and I am trying to do clinical practice because I want to qualify to practice as a doctor in Nigeria,” Fehintola told the BBC.
First, I wrote to the Ministry of Health in my own country and asked to be assigned to a hospital, but when I arrived at the hospital, the doctor told me: “Oh, you are from Ukraine, are there no certificates? were the MDCNs abolished?”.
I was so shocked that I could only answer “yes” because it is true. From then on, that was the view and I knew there was going to be a stigma – this “this guy is from Ukraine, his certificate is not valid” attitude.
MDCN did not respond to the BBC’s request for comment.
Describing the policy as discriminatory, Mr Fehintola said he thought about the announcement and decided to be motivated rather than an inconvenience.
“I will tell Nigeria this: if this is what Nigeria wants, so be it. I will look for other countries to practice this and it will be a loss for Nigeria.”
Grace Ladi Musa, who began her five-year medical degree at Kyiv Medical University when war broke out, agrees.
“It’s unfair,” she said.
The 23-year-old told the BBC that her plans for life had been turned upside down – first by the war and then by the revelation that her studies would be deemed invalid.
“I hope the Nigerian Ministry of Education will think twice. Another medical student has even stronger words for the Nigerian authorities.
“Our own country rejects us,” says Emmanuella Oiza, 17, a second-year medical student at Sumy State University.
“People are trying to get a better education to go back home and improve the country, but you’re sending them away.”
The only solution is mobilization, believes Samuel Otunla (24), a student of veterinary medicine.
He plans to unite returning Nigerian students and ask the government to reverse its decision, accusing it of failing to handle education so much that studying abroad is the only option for those who can afford it.
The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria has advised students currently studying medicine or dentistry in Ukrainian medical colleges to transfer to accredited institutions in other countries.
It states that online medical education provided in any part of the world does not meet recognized standards and will not recognize any medical diploma issued after completion of online education.
The government is reconsidering its decision
The Nigerian government says it plans to absorb students affected by the conflict in Ukraine into universities there.
The move follows outrage over the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria’s announcement last month that it would not recognize or accept degrees from Ukrainian universities awarded since the country’s war with Russia began.
In what appears to be a reconsideration of that decision on Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now asked interested students to register on its website to facilitate placement in various Nigerian universities.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria wishes to inform Nigerian students who have returned from Ukraine as a result of the conflict in that country that efforts are being made to facilitate their placement in various Nigerian tertiary institutions to continue their studies,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in a statement. belonging to Francisco Omayuli.