Rwanda welcomed over 200 Sudanese students from the University of Medical Sciences and Technology (UMST) of Khartoum, Sudan, on August 2 to complete their studies following the current insecurities in their country. They will be placed at the University of Rwanda (UR) - School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The New Times’ Alice Kagina had an exclusive interview with Prof. Mamoun Homeida, Chairman Board of Trustees at UMST, Khartoum to shed light on the work of the university, the reason behind choosing Rwanda, and future plans for the partnership. Below are excerpts. Who is Prof Mamoun Homeida and tell us about your work in Khartoum? I am a Sudanese born doctor , trained both in the UK and in Sudan. I have taught at Bristol University- Uk and I also taught and had the honor to be the Vice Chancellor of the University of Khartoum. In 1996, I left Khartoum University to establish a University of Medical Science and Technology (UMST) with a broad vision of excellence. I am a mix of love for education and medicine combined into the practice of medicine and education at the higher level of universities and post-university. Moreover, I have been doing research mainly in tropical diseases and also forefront research in ultrasound and riverblindness. I have been the Chair of the WHO Technical Consultative Committee for 17 years in Burkina Faso, where I joined a project between WHO and World Bank for control of river blindness in 30 countries in Africa. It is considered a big public health project by WHO because it succeeded toeradicate river blindness from many African countries. I have been a consultant to WHO in Geneva on many committees, mainly in research. I have a life of a mixture of education and research on one side and practiced medicine for a long time. I introduced ultrasound and endoscopy for the first time in Sudan in 1982. As well as CT scans and MRI scanners which all together made huge changes in human life. You've demonstrated efforts in championing quality education on the continent, how do you assess the current education system, where do you see loopholes and how can they be fixed? Africans are researching tropical diseases better than anyone in the world because it is our disease of concern. As far as development is concerned, it has to be based on education. After the periods of colonization in Africa, education waslagging behind as it was very young. We have certain areas where education started earlier like in Sudan, it started 1908, also in Uganda it started early, but most of the universities in other African countries were born in the 60s. We need to support each other in Africa and we need to share the knowledge and technology. READ ALSO: Over 200 Sudanese medical students to complete studies in Rwanda At UMST, our slogan is ‘go Africa’ meaning we have to mix with Africans which is why we have a centre in South Sudan, Somalia, Tanzania and Rwanda . We don’t claim making discoveries but we believe our expertise can be shared with and we benefit from each other’s. After this war, we found that its Africans who embraced us. So, let’s go together, we need to go far and this requires us to go together as the African proverb say: if you want to go far go together. Covid-19 has brought to light the need for Africa’s self-reliance in the medical field, prompting critical investments in this area over the last three years, what is your take on that? Well, Africa always has a special place in my heart, and I know what should be done, not on the political scenery but in development of education and medicine. What we are doing now in most African countries is vertical development which may take time and appears very glamorous, and yes, it does some work, but it’s not something sustainable because most of what we do is either imported from the West or run by the West. As a scientist, I believe context matters and we have to grow things organically in our countries and this will help us to benefit from the advances in the West. The way I see things is close collaboration with the west. This will benefit them as well as we know our context better and we can adapt the methods and use of technology better to our societies especially since the world is a small village and you can’t simply ignore Africa. We need to look at the world as one connected ecosystem. Africa should do its its part and collaborate with the west. I am looking for interdependency relationship and not being dependent, and up to now I cannot feel happy about the development of education and medicine in Africa. There have been a lot of efforts but it is neither based on research nor good training of people and it is not supported enough by our governments, so we need to look into that. Recently, Rwanda received Sudanese medical students to continue their studies here. Why did you choose Rwanda to accommodate the UMST students? Rwanda managed to overcome its past) and make a substantial leap into a better and sustainable future for its people. This means that Rwanda is open to development and education. We needed a country where we get the students trained in the best way. I have been to Rwanda many times and I have seen the development, you could not get blind that what was happening is new but firm and consistent. There is law and order, and good governance. We came here three years before the war to develop this centre, which is now running smoothly. So, knowing the type of people I know from Rwanda, I knew I would get a good reception. Are there students left at the university, if yes, what's their fate? There are some students who are in humanities, business administration, and economics, among others. They are being taught online as I try to explore more opportunities to accommodate them to finish their education. Unfortunately, 90 percent of students are losing their future. This is huge responsibility on my shoulders and I will not shy away from doing my best to help them. What are your expectations at the end of this partnership? We met with different officials and our suggestion is to make this a win-win situation. Sudan has expertise and lecturerswith expertise in medical faculties with high-level specialization. We are trying to get lecturers here either to practice in the medical field or to teach in Rwandan universities. I am getting all the expert staff from there to come and initiate links between the two countries. We need Rwanda and I am sure we can offer great things for the development of this country. We are looking for a long lasting relationship that will continue even when the war stops in my country. It’s a win-win partnership but what’s the investment cost on your side? We see this project as an investment in our people and future generations. The Capital and operation expenditures are in millions but as I said I will not shy away from any investment. That university had a lot of accreditation across the world and if we transfer that university here, we can train many Rwandese and other Africans and offer a lot of post-graduate studies which are not yet available here. Any parting message? I would like, on behalf of the Sudanese, to thank the government of Rwanda and particularly his excellency President Paul Kagame, the Minister of education Dr Valentine Uwamariya and minister of health Dr Sabin Nsanzimana , Many thanks to Dr Muganga Kayihura the Vice Chancellor of University of Rwanda as well as the media for capturing the spirit of our coming here. Thank you to the people of Rwanda, we feel home and we want this to be our home.