Medical school applicants are now accepted partly on the basis of how underprivileged they are, and not on the basis of race, according to Dean of the Health Sciences Faculty Professor Ahmed Wadee.
Wadee was responding to claims from rejected students who said they were not accepted because they were “not the right colour”.
One applicant, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was rejected because the faculty was not allowing any more Indian people having reached their “quota”.
However, Wadee denies race plays a role in the selection on students.
Selection is based on a combination of academic and non-academic scores which determines who is offered a place at the health faculty. However, as some students point out, having “straight A’s” is not a guarantee of getting into medicine.
“The ‘straight A student’ story isn’t always true. There are other things that they consider, like compassion and charity,” said fourth year medical student Creaghan Eddey.
Wadee said the academic criteria only accounts for 80% of the total percentage of the entrance criteria.
He said the downfall of most applicants is the National Benchmark Test (NBT) which counts for 40% of the score.
The other 20% comes from non-academic criteria and uses a questionnaire that determines whether a person comes from a rich or poor background.
“Now, you could be yellow, you could be white, you could be coloured, you could be Indian, [but] if you have no water and no lights you have an under-resourced environment,” Wadee said.
According to Wadee, the Wits Medical School had previously used a racial quota system that was abandoned so that socio-economic conditions could be given priority.
“We acknowledged that system of accepting [race quotas] was incorrect then we changed it,” said Wadee.
Some schools, such as the University of Cape Town, still makes use of the racial quota system.
Wadee said his faculty receives complaints from applicants who feel they were unfairly rejected. “If someone says ‘so-and-so got in and I didn’t’ I say ‘give me the person’s name’, we look it up and show the complainant why they didn’t get in while the other one did.”
“Personal appeals to the Dean or anybody in the faculty do not work,” said Wadee. “In reality, we have 6 000 applicants and in medicine only 250 get in,” said Wadee.
Another fourth year Medical student said: “The faculty has to redress the past. We have to acknowledge our past.” But she added that promoting underprivileged applicants should not trump academic knowledge.
“I think our school gets flack because the process isn’t transparent, no one ever explains this selection criteria to us. That’s why people target [medical school] about acceptance more than others,” Eddey said.
“But If I didn’t get in I would have bitched too,” he added.