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Vanessa Nobel on the Historical and Political Importance of the First Black Medical School in SA

A School of StruggleFor years the Durban Medical School (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine) was the only place black students could get full biomedical training in South Africa, but it is also an important institution for another reason. In an interview with Stephen Coan of The Witness, Vanessa Noble, author of A School of Stuggle: Durban’s Medical School and the Education of Black Doctors in South Africa, points out that the school “also led to the broader education of black doctors in politics”.

Politicians such as Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Mamphela Ramphele, Aaron Motsoaledi and the late anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko where all trained at the Durban Medical School. In this sense, Nobel says: “The story of the medical school is not just a local story but a national story.”

THE University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, popularly known as the Durban Medical School, is one of the province’s showpieces, a key player in global health, thanks to the presence of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa).

The school was the first institution to provide full biomedical training for black students successfully, thus laying the foundation of the black medical profession, but it also provided a place for political education and a focal point in the struggle against apartheid.

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