Adapted From Daily Nation
By DENNIS ODUNGA
January 20 2011 at 18:54
Moi University chancellor Bethwel Allan Ogot recalls the electrifying message that made the rounds. It was in late 2007 and the university had just launched a dental school in a three- bedroom house. Most of those who knew about the development could not hide their displeasure.
Two years down the line, the university management was at the same spot, launching dentistry clinical services that would see the public benefit from subsidized oral health from a team of surgeons working alongside their students.
Standing in front of the same building, Prof Ogot said on Monday: “Today, I am here to launch the Moi University dental hospital.”
A stone’s throw away, a storey building estimated to cost Sh360 million is taking shape. Its ground floor is already operational. Once complete, it would comfortably host all the school’s five departments together with modern diagnostic equipment to aid the teaching and learning process.
Prof Ogot said the launch, which kicked off with free dental clinics, opens a new chapter in operations of the university. The institution has been instrumental in incorporating income generating projects in its academic calendar.
The dentistry service is a milestone in efforts to cushion the country against the biting shortage of dentists. The chancellor said the few dentists can hardly cope with increased cases of dental problems and said the institution would come handy.
“The majority of Kenyans have been relying on graduates from the University of Nairobi, which admits about 30 students annually. The dentists end up settling in Nairobi upon graduation, leaving other Kenyans spread all over the country suffering,” said Prof Ogot.
The Chancellor noted that many people sought medication too late because teeth problems were not viewed as disease until when the ‘aching is too acute for a person to bear.’
Besides, Prof Ogot said most Kenyans cannot afford dental services; which he attributed to the few medical practitioners specialising in the area.
“We have positively responded to the twin aims of achieving healthcare and education. The institution will now be able to offer quality dental teaching alongside saving lives at subsidized rates,” said Prof Ogot.
He defended the university’s move to launch the clinical services saying the new constitutional dispensation guaranteed Kenyans a right to decent education and affordable healthcare.
The Chancellor further challenged those who were well endowed financially to support institutions offering various services to society.
“Millionaires should embrace other countries and think of building institutions. We can name them or a street leading to where they are located after you, in honour of your rare gesture,” said Prof Ogot.
He said universities were to have so many stalled projects if they were to rely on government funding, which he said was too little to sustain the development projects they needed to remain competitive in their concerted efforts to deliver the best.
“Nowhere in the world do universities rely on the government. Unfortunately, in Kenya, the government controls universities in that they don’t want them to increase fees yet it doesn’t allocate enough funds,” said Prof Ogot.
He said universities in other countries have been able to grow steadfastly because the government considered them for various jobs that personnel from the institutions could undertake.
“In Egypt for instance, most tenders are awarded to relevant departments within universities. They are thus able to make money. But, in Kenya such transactions are controlled from one office and it can take up to ten years for a project to be approved,” Prof Ogot said.
He said the universities were capable of making money for the government and themselves if they can be given an opportunity.The vice chancellor Richard Mibey revealed that the university was allocated Sh65 million in the current budget and yet they needed more than the amount to meet their annual financial needsThe school of dentistry has the department of Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral Medicine/Oral Pathology and Radiology, department of Conservative Dentistry & Prosthetics, department of Community Preventive Dentistry and Periodontology, department of Oral Biology and Dental Anatomy and the department of Paediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics.
The building will also cater for the School of public health. Besides, it will pave way for delinking of the department of nursing from the university’s school of medicine, which is housed at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH).
“We will start the school of pharmacy under the same building so that we can have a complete medical institution,” said the dean, school of dentistry, Dr Caroline Kibosia.
She said some eleven students who have reached a stage where they can start learning how to treat patients will provide dental healthcare under the guidance of 16 doctors teaching at the school.
“We have a total of 77 students pursuing a first degree in dental surgery. Oral health problems are a major public health concern worldwide and there is need to produce enough competent manpower,” said Dr Kibosia.
Today, she noted, the challenges of oral diseases are worrying, especially among children. “Due to lack of information and limited financial muscles, early prevention of dental related diseases is still a challenge to many Kenyans. Inaccessibility to oral health care is getting worse in Kenya,” she said.
The dentist-population ratio in Kenya estimated at one dentist for between 60 to 100,000 people, is far much below the World Health Organisation (WHO), recommended ratio of one dentist to a population of seven to 10,000.
Dr Kibosia said that people are supposed to have a dental check up after every six months and change their toothbrushes after every three months, besides, brushing their teeth appropriately in line with a doctor’s advice.
“People take these tips for granted but they are critical for a person to keep his oral health to the required standards, which will keep most diseases at bay,” said Dr Kibosia.
The consultant paediatric dentist added that proper oral hygiene and diet improves teeth development and warned against increased intake of snacks and sugary drinks.
Prof Mibey said the school, through collaborations with local and international institutions, has acquired some equipment that will come handy in diagnosis and treatment of dental ailments.
“The x-ray machine will help in the diagnosis of complicated dental ailments. Institutions like Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis in USA, Support Africa International in German and Suez Canal University in Egypt has done us proud,” said Prof Mibey.
He said professors from Suez Canal and Alexandria University in Egypt will come to the university to train and offer scholarships to their Kenyan counterparts.
Such exchange programmes, he said, were important as they added value to what the professionals knew as no one had a monopoly of ideas.
He said, “I was in Alexandria a couple of weeks ago and we agreed on sustainable cooperation in various academic fields geared towards improving the quality of education in order to remain ripe for emerging opportunities.”