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[DODOMA] The Tanzanian government has promised to cover all training costs for medical students in both public and private universities in a bid to increase the number of health professionals in the country.

Members of Parliament are urging the government to extend the programme to include research students in other science and technology-related fields, in order to attract more students into science and stem the 'brain drain' of doctors and scientists from the country.

They warn that Tanzania will be left behind in the global economy if it fails to invest in science and technology. "We have two options: either invest in science and technology or perish," said Freeman Mbowe, a member of parliament. "In the United Kingdom, they speak of research and development. They invest a lot in science."

In announcing the extra funding for medical students, the minister for science, technology and higher education, Pius Ng'wandu, told parliament that Tanzania only has one doctor per 24,000 patients — well below the recommended number.

Low salaries for doctors are driving the 'brain drain' of doctors from the country, said member of parliament Ismail Ivwata. And those that remain seek higher wages in private hospitals in large urban centres, leading to a lack of doctors in some of the country's district hospitals.

The government has not revealed how much it will spend on the new programme. However it has confirmed that it will cover the costs of all those who qualify for medical degree courses.

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