Despite an earlier directive which prohibited extension education programs in health and health related fields, the Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA) says a number of private health education institutions are still offering these disciplines in extension programs directly violating the directive.
Just a few months ago, the Agency revealed that more than 3,000 students have graduated last year in health and health related fields comprising 646 Public Health, 1159 Nursing, 741 Pharmacy, 403 Midwife and 7 Dental Health graduates.
It is to be recalled that five year ago upon an order from Ministry of Health, HERQA has issued a circular which prohibits any higher education institution from offering courses in any of the heath related education streams to students in extension programs. The directive clearly indicated that those fields should only be given in a regular program.
This directive also indicates that the major rational behind the circular was that, the extension program would compromise the quality of the educational delivery. As a result of these, five years ago, higher educational intuitions were prohibited from giving extension programs in public health, nursing, pharmacy, midwifery, health officers and dental medicine.
However, despite repeated calls from the Agency, the private institutions still continue to violate the directive, registering students in extension programs.
In a letter circulated to all the health bureaus of all the regional states last week, signed by Tamrat Mota, deputy director general of the Agency, there are still students from first to fourth year still attending schools in extension programs.
Given the fact that most of the attendees of the program are full-time employees, they would not have time for any practical training which the field requires desperately.
Practical trainings for health and health related students are supposed to be given in day programs since it might compromise the quality of their profession and endanger the life of patients.
Having the aforementioned rationales, HERQA banned higher educational intuitions from giving extension programs.
The letter from the Agency read that, this will have an impact on the theoretical as well as practical competency of the students.
To compensate for the gap, the institutions were allowed to have their first and second year students to finalize their education in five years although it was four years, regularly. In addition, those third-year students will be forced to complete within four and half years.
The Agency which was established to monitor and regulate higher education institutions for years is supposed to have an updated database of students across the country. It was given a mandate to follow-up the implementation of the circular.
Established in 2003 as a regulatory body, HERQA is responsible for overseeing the education sector.
HERQA, which is also responsible to have organized data systems of a number of students who are currently attending higher education in those institutions have no such system, according to an official from the Agency.