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African Journal of Health Professions Education

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Curriculum challenges faced by rural-origin health science students at South African medical schools

P Diab, PS Flack, LH Mabuza, H Moolman

Abstract


Background. The current shortage of healthcare workers in rural communities demands attention. The sourcing of rural-origin students (ROSs) has been suggested, but retention of these students in their  chosen degrees is crucial. Addressing the tertiary education challenges that ROSs face is critical to ensuring their success.
Objective. To focus on the various challenges influencing throughput of ROSs.
Method. This article is one of a series of investigations into various aspects of university life and career choices of health science students. Data were collected at three South African universities by the Collaboration for Health Equity through Education and Research (CHEER) collaborators. Ethical permission was sought from each institution. Health science students at the relevant institutions consented to completing a self-administered questionnaire. The data were analysed on SPSS and ÷2 tests were used to describe the statistical significance of the results.
Results. Academic course content was the greatest challenge as perceived by students. Differences  between rural and urban students were significant in all aspects of university life studied. Technological challenges were five times more common for ROSs. Differences between first- and final-year students were not as marked, although the personal challenges and academic course content became easier as students progressed through their degree.
Conclusion. Although ROSs face similar challenges as students of urban origin, in some instances these are enhanced and magnified. These students are more likely to find various aspects of university life challenging. To improve the success and retention of ROSs, adequate support structures are essential.



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