MalDent Student Aid

A new Scottish charity has been established to support dental students in Malawi

16 August, 2021 / indepth
 Jeremy Bagg  

Since 2017, the University of Glasgow Dental School has been working in partnership with the Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS), formerly the University of Malawi College of Medicine, to establish Malawi’s first ever Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree course.

This work is part of a much broader work package, the MalDent Project, funded by Scottish Government International Development under its Malawi Development Programme. Other strands of the project include close working with the Malawi Government Ministry of Health, Dental Association of Malawi, KUHeS and the World Health Organization to develop a national Oral Health Policy and Implementation Plan, together with  establishment of a caries prevention programme for children which is appropriate for use in Malawian schools. The MalDent Project benefits from interaction with multiple partners across the academic, healthcare, charitable and commercial sectors in both Malawi and the UK. The work of the MalDent Project is reported regularly in a blog which is available at www.themaldentproject.com.

Malawi is one of the least developed countries in the world. Its population is increasing rapidly and is currently estimated to be in excess of 18 million. Most citizens live in rural areas for whom agriculture is the main source of income for the majority of households, as well as providing an important source of food for their families.

Currently, the Medical Council of Malawi has 43 dentists on its register to serve the entire population. Most of these dentists, all of whom trained out-with Malawi, are working in private practice in the cities, so there is massive inequity of access between urban and rural areas. The College of Health Sciences trains dental therapists on a three-year course, but there are insufficient therapists (approximately 140) to solve the access problem.

As part of an initiative to address the serious shortage of trained oral healthcare personnel, the Government of Malawi was keen to establish of a BDS course within country. Following close collaboration between the University of Glasgow and KUHeS, the programme was launched in August 2019, with intakes into both the Foundation Year and BDS 1.

Dental students at their induction session, August 2019]

Despite the interruption to studies by the COVID-19 pandemic for all KUHeS students, the Foundation and BDS 1 cohorts all progressed onto the next year of the course when the new, delayed academic session started in February 2021. There was also a new 2021 intake into the Foundation Year, so there are now more dental students than there are dentists in Malawi.

Many higher education students in Malawi face major financial challenges. Once their tuition fees and accommodation costs are covered, there is often little money left for food, transportation and other routine living expenses. Following discussions between the Malawian and Scottish MalDent Project leads it was agreed that we should look at ways of establishing a hardship fund to provide some additional financial support for dental students who were struggling to cover costs. A programme called ‘Medic to Medic’ already exists for medical students and so we have established a ‘Dentist to Dentist’ equivalent for the BDS students, which will be administered by KUHeS.

In order to provide a regular income stream to the ‘Dentist to Dentist’ hardship fund, a Scottish charity has been established called MalDent Student Aid (SC050001).

Details can be found at the charity website: www.maldentstudentaid.org . A variety of fund-raising initiatives will be undertaken each year and all monies collected will be passed via instalments to KUHeS to help to service the ‘Dentist to Dentist’ programme in Malawi.

Ultimately, the aim of MalDent Student Aid is to facilitate the study of dentistry by Malawian students who satisfy the criteria for entry to the BDS programme but who do not have the financial reserves needed to sustain their five years of study. If you or your practice staff would like to learn more about our work, you can contact us via our web-site, through which donations can also be made.

 Zikomo! (Thank you!).

Tags: Smileawi

Categories: Feature / Magazine

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