By Gatonye Gathura
Life is no bed of roses at the Moi University School of Medicine, which hosts a huge collaboration with several American universities.
A recent analysis of the relationship, which also involves the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret, paints more of a servant-master engagement than a partnership of equals.
An overly ‘diplomatized’ report, published recently says the major bone of contention is skewed compensation, with Americans seen to be skimming off the fat with locals holding the thin end of the tail.
The study was carried out by David Nderitu, a lecturer at Egerton University and Eunice Kamaara of Moi University and published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics.
“Inequality emerged as a major challenge in the IU-Kenya partnership. The big one is about compensation, the other one could be publishing.”
Local professional felt compensation is skewed to favour the foreigners, while when it comes to publishing the locals have no access to data.
“Another challenge is that, if you are in a project you can’t access the data they have taken because all the data is managed in Indiana University,” said a Kenyan study participant.
Indiana University, US, was the initial party to the collaboration which has since grown to include Brown University, University of Utah, Duke University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Toronto, Canada.
The authors also seem to question why the partnership is named IU-Kenya, suggesting this in itself is skewed in power favour to the foreigners.
Indiana University (IU), the report says is one university but instead of matching it with another university, Moi University (MU) for example, it is matched with a whole country, Kenya.
“The name IU-Kenya Partnership may create an impression that a single North American university is on par with a country, pointing at an element of inequality.”
On compensation and publishing, the Americans say the locals may be unrealistically expecting too much.
“Their expectations about their salary support are unrealistic and inconsistent with the reality of grant funding. Some of the Kenyans are earning more than I do,” said one of the foreigners.
On publishing, the Americans said Kenyans are disadvantaged because English is their third language hence difficult to have their work published in high impact journals.
But also, Kenya’s PhDs are seen to be of lower quality compared to those held by the Americans.
One of the Americans explained that a local PhD may be inadequate to position one as a successful researcher globally.
“Not because you are not capable, but because the training that you received was weak and was just not adequate, not enough to really prepare you to be a global health researcher,” said the American participant.
Kenyans who had trained in the US through the programme say their exposure had been limited, unlike the access, Americans are accorded to local patients.
“While in the US we don’t get to give medications and dressing wounds, I have noticed that the American students do it here. When we were there we could only clerk,” said a Moi University exchange programme student.
The locals, however, agree despite the disparities they have as individuals, the country and patients benefited immensely from the American generosity through the funding of infrastructure, technologies and academic sponsorships.
Some of the Kenyans participating in the study seemed to accept the lopsided relationship as inevitable.
“I mean they are the ones who come in with the money ………. So, of course, they feel like they should have the upper hand; and indeed, they should because it’s their money,” said a local participant.