My experience studying Veterinary Medicine by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

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My experience studying Veterinary Medicine by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

Naija Read
Administrator
A while ago, when I was about
rounding up my national service,
a Diaspora friend of mine while
asking what my plans were for
the future had asked, “Do
people really visit vets in
Nigeria?” That question did so
much in deepening my anxiety
at that time and really
summarizes the fate of many
young graduates of Veterinary
Medicine in Nigeria.
Veterinary Medicine is perhaps
one of the least popular
academic disciplines in the
country. Before I got into the
University, I really didn’t know
people spent such time to learn
how to raise and treat animals.
95 percent of my 118 size class
in year one never filled in to
study Vet. Medicine but took it
up as a last option following the
unavailability of the desired.
Many of us nursed the ambition
of changing over to our desired
course (which was mainly
Medicine or pharmacy) in the
second year. Some succeeded,
many did not.
Perhaps even more worrying
was the fact that the course was
itself a difficult business. If you
studied in any of the Universities
that had a vet school, you would
appreciate what the life of a Vet
student is. The schedule is
unimaginable. The course
content is endless. The Volumes
of notes is brain cracking. The
lecturers are merciless. The
exams are scary. The results
bring so much despair.
It’s not unusual that vet
students rank among the top
over stayed students. I lost so
many of my classmates to the
embarrassing verdicts of
Professional exams. From 118 at
the beginning, just 47 of us
finally took the oath and were
inducted into the Profession up
on graduation.
Vet students don’t have
holidays. We are on campus all
year round. We run a schedule
that is same as that of our
Human Medical colleagues. We
do basically the same courses
and more. We study the
husbandry, medicine and surgery
of at least seven species plus a
comparative study of Humans.
We are literarily made to
develop a seventh sense to use
in decoding our patients
problems since they don’t talk.
We pay as much as the Human
Medical students for our
studies. Our official course
duration is six years just like
them. We use the prefix of “Dr”
too.
But that’s as much as the
similarities go. Right there on
campus we begin to feel the
stigmatization. You hear such
derogatory terms as “Animal
Doctor” and soon you are proud
to be addressed as such. You try
so much to put the negatives
out of your mind and
concentrate on the positives.
Gradually you get to appreciate
the fact that unlike your human
Medicine colleagues you have no
guaranteed life after graduation.
You find proof of this in the
number of your senior
colleagues who return for their
masters with the hope of joining
the more lucrative academia.
Chance meets with these senior
colleagues tells tales that
suggests that “all is not well”.
Upon graduation you head for
the national youth service.
Friends, family and society now
know you as a Doctor. With that
name comes so much
expectation. While serving all
you are thinking of is a job after
the service. Hardly any job
advert requests the services of
Veterinary Doctors. Who really
employs Vets? You find yourself
caught between joining your
fellow corpers in applying for
the available jobs mostly the
banks or sticking with your
profession. You feel strongly
about the six years you spent to
obtain the DVM and you don’t
want to vie away.
Even when you decide to apply,
you come to discover that
employers in Nigeria hardly
remember that people study Vet
in this country. Drop down
buttons for “qualification” never
has space for vets. You will find
B.sc, B.A, B.Engr, B.Agric, B.Ed,
even B.Pharm and MBBS, but
never DVM. This makes you
begin to question yourself again
about who you really are. Worst
still, your fellow corpers don’t
consider you as being on the
same boat with them. They
think the “Dr” in front of your
name makes you immune to
bothering about a job. They
don’t seem to understand why
you should be hustling for a job
like them.
Once I turned up at the venue
of a bank interview. I felt like an
alien. When I got tired of
answering the “Doc, wetin you
dey find for here?” question, to
which I responded that I only
sauntered in to see a friend, I
left the place. Honestly I had
hoped to gate crash as I didn’t
receive an invitation though I
had applied. I didn’t wait to see
if gate crashers would be
welcomed. I left sharp sharp.
Not to mention here that you
are worlds apart from your
Human Doctor corper friends.
Having had the privilege of a
one year Housemanship post
graduation where they get very
juicy pay, they throw car keys
around when you are discussing
with them. While you jump
okada’s and Buses, they Cruise
around. You don’t stop
wondering if it is not the same
doctor that you are that they are
too.
After service, Human Doctors
get jobs more readily. At the
very least a Private clinic takes
them. These private clinics pay
them appreciably well. But for
the Vet it’s a whole different
issue.  Who really employs vets?
Private vets clinics are so few,
most of them hardly satisfying
their owners own financial
needs. Adding hands to be paid
is thus unwelcomed. Those that
employ pay peanuts. Peanut is
the word. I don’t know how
else to describe working from
8.00am to 6.00pm daily
(Saturdays inclusive) and
receiving less than N30,000.00.
Matter of fact there are very few
(if any) vet clinics in Nigeria that
pay their employed vets
anything above N30,000.00.
How do you reconcile that with
the tough years of training and
the high expectations of family
and society given the “Dr”
prefix?
The only lucrative options for
young vets seem to be the
academia and the civil service.
Jobs from both of these sources
however are as scarce as water
in a desert. In any case how
many vets can be taken by
them? There are only eight vet
schools in Nigeria. How many
vet lecturers retire in a year and
how many new lecturers are
taken? The civil service doesn’t
take staff every other day. The
result is that there is a backlog
of vets who are unemployed,
under employed or simply not
doing something fulfilling.
Recently the Nigeria Police in its
recruitment advertised spaces
for Vets. I couldn’t see myself in
a Police Uniform at whatever
prize so I didn’t bother. In any
case I hadn’t the N1000.00 for
the scratch card. But classmates
that did came back from the
verification exercise with tales
of meeting with other colleagues
who graduated way before us. It
simply meant that for all these
years, they have not found
anything good enough.  How sad
for such a nobel profession.
Of course I know some people
will bring up the issue of private
practice. The existing private
clinics like earlier mentioned are
on a daily battle for survival. In
any case establishing a private
practice as a vet is a damn big
step of faith. Unlike the Human
medic who has a guaranteed
clientele, the vet is thrown into
a battle with the existing private
outfits for the very few clients.
Would you advise your son to go
into that world of uncertainty?
Perhaps the other option left is
livestock farming. People don’t
often seem to remember that it
takes so much money to start a
farm and that there is great risk
involved in running one. How
many livestock farms are owned
by vets? Do you need to be a
vet to own a farm? Given, as a
vet you have the training to be
able to establish and run one
effectively but then, it is not
anywhere as easy as it sounds. I
know many who have tried.
Some even had the balls of
taking loans. A good number
didn’t come out of it with
pleasant tales.
So the post graduation
experience is not a pleasant one
at all for the young vet. It’s not
been pleasant for me nor for a
host of my colleagues especially
those of us who didn’t vie off or
who tied and weren’t very
successful. Unemployment is
already a huge problem in the
country but for the Vet it’s even
more. Worse still you spent so
much time in the university
trying to graduate that you know
little or nothing else outside Vet
Medicine. Save for some of us
who did other things (at the risk
of flunking our professional
exams) a host of my class mates
know how to do nothing else.
Some never heard of Hi5 or
facebook until recently. Other
began computer appreciation
classes after graduation.
Studying vet feels like driving
into a Close. You feel trapped in
there. You feel tied to the six
years wahalla and the name. Yet
you are getting nothing out of it.
Employers outside the
profession are not eager to hire
you. Either they feel they can’t
pay you or they just feel you
know absolutely nothing outside
needles and syringes or dogs
and meat. Our people do not
keep pets and simply kill any
sick animal. They thus hardly
have any need for a vet. No
matter how optimistic you are in
life, you begin to actually
wonder why in the world you
spent all those years studying
this course.
I am done complaining. This is
my signing out piece. The FCT
minister had on my passing out
from service announced an
automatic employment for me
and ten others who won the
Honours award. I thought I had
escaped the dilemma. Four
months on and its now obvious
the word “automatic” doesn’t
have the same meaning in the
dictionary of the FCT
administration as is found in the
English dictionary. Not the
money, not the job has showed
up. I am done waiting for them.
At a proper time I will launch
my attack against them. For now
I am looking for other options. I
am looking up.
Pitifully a whole lot of my
colleagues are yet to come up to
this level of thought. They daily
grapple with the challenge of
answering a big name and being
very small in the pocket. It’s
not their fault. It’s the fault of
the system. A system that
judges you basically by what
degree u hold. Veterinary
Medicine no doubt is a great
course, but sincerely in Nigeria
it’s a hard knock life for Vets.
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Re: My experience studying Veterinary Medicine by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

bola
hmm,  great lesson!