“Ouch!” I had just hit myself trying to kill the mosquito that woke me very early (and kept waking me throughout the night). We forgot to use the insecticide yesterday. But I wasn’t going to let that get me down. It was my first day at dental school and nothing was going to spoil my day, not even the fact that I had to go three floors down to get the bucket of water to have my bath or the fact that I had to keep stomping to scare off the cat-sized rats roaming about.
“Ngozi please keep a seat for me,” my roommate said as she rushed to get water from the bathroom. They had just put on the hostel generator and started pumping water, but by now it was 7:30 which would have been late for me to prepare for an 8 a.m. class.
This is just another day for me in a Nigerian dental school. The dental degree in Nigeria is a bachelor of dental surgery (BDS) degree. It’s a 6-year program that doesn’t require an undergraduate degree. A school year starts in January and ends in December with only one break during Christmas. During the first four years, basic medical science subjects are taught. We attend lectures with our medical school colleagues during our second through fourth years. Anatomy (where we dissect cadavers), biochemistry, physiology, pathology, hematology, microbiology, oral biology, pharmacology and epidemiology are some of the classes that we take.
In the second part of the fourth year we have a junior operative technique course, which involves an introduction to prosthetic and conservative dentistry. We have to make a complete denture and prepare Class I and II cavity preps. For a class of 49 pupils there are only five working phantom heads available for practice of cavity preparation and one slow hand piece shared between five students. There is also the issue of electricity. Although this is a general problem in Nigeria, our lecturers do not see it as a reason for anyone to lag behind. During our fifth year of dental school we start another segment of lectures and clinic rotations in preventive dentistry, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, oral path, oral surgery and restorative dentistry.
Normally rotations and meeting requirements can be difficult, and with the increased cost of treatment, reduced patient flow, residents strikes, the Ebola scare, and the current strike of all health workers except doctors, clinic learning has also been difficult. Meeting requirements has been nearly impossible. Hence this leads to us going to markets and schools to source for patients, and sometimes paying for our patients’ procedures. I honestly feel anyone who can graduate in these kinds of conditions can thrive anywhere.
~Ngozi Chukwudifu, College of Medicine University of Lagos, Nigeria, international member