Medical academics have accused the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of racism after a black medical professor was removed from the examiners’ panel on allegations of leaking final questions in a gynaecology module exam.
A concerned group of medical professionals expressed its support for Shisana Baloyi, who was removed by Leon Snyman, a professor and president of the college.
The incident has opened a can of worms and the group is now calling on Parliament to intervene.
In a letter to health portfolio committee chairperson Mary-Ann Dunjwa, the group raised concerns about the “victimisation” of black candidates wanting to specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology, and black examiners.
The group also questioned the high rate of black students failing at the college.
They blame the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA), which administers examinations for health professionals even if they are registered with their respective universities.
Baloyi, who is head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department at the University of Free State, did not set the final exam.
He only contributed possible questions for the externally set exam.
Although he had not seen the final examination paper, he is accused of having put forward questions that were part of the set final examination in his mock exam more than a month ago for his students.
Baloyi and CMSA chose not to respond because of an ongoing investigation process.
However, sources close to Baloyi said in response to Snyman’s letter expressing the college’s decision to remove him from examiners’ panel, he has argued that mock examinations are a common practice in universities and also demanded to know why he was the only academic targeted if this was “an offence”.
“He also gave examples and specific questions asked by other universities, such as Wits, KwaZulu-Natal, Cape Town and Pretoria, among [other institutions], which had questions in their mock exams that were later found to be part of the final examination. Is he wrong because all his candidates are black?” asked the source, who asked not to be named.
An online petition called Hands Off Prof has started and a demonstration was held last weekend at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, formerly Medunsa.
The banner for the demonstration bore the words: “Hands off Prof Baloyi. Join in solidarity towards radical educational transformation and activism against academic racism.”
City Press has seen a thread of messages from a WhatsApp group of concerned medical professionals.
“The accusations [are] always made against black academics though we know for a fact that [white academics] pass with the assistance [of] their professors,” one message read.
An example was given in one message of a “brilliant dedicated doctor who passed cum laude”. However, while studying towards a specialisation at Wits, she failed her oral exams with the same examiner several times until she launched a legal challenge. She won the case and is now a specialist in the field.
“... Do we have to suffer so much pain in this time and era”? asked one academic.
Chairperson of the newly formed structure of concerned medical professionals Dr Phume Moletsane said he previously challenged the CMSA when students were “deliberately” failed.
Moletsane said there were cases in which, after the CMSA was challenged, some candidates “suddenly” got a pass mark.
On Baloyi’s matter, Moletsane said that in 2016 and last year, he prepared his candidates for their final exams using the same method of the mock exam.
“All candidates, of [different] races, passed and there was nothing wrong. Only now, when he has one black female candidate, it has become a problem. He is being crucified by people at his level who are also using the same method,” he said, adding that they planned a public campaign to expose the college.
Moletsane said they would also write to President Cyril Ramaphosa to ask for an intervention.