Ben Ahmar Koné left Côte d’Ivoire to study medicine in Ukraine – until war forced him to flee to France. Now newly qualified as a doctor, he tells RFI why he has decided to return to his home country.
“I have my anatomy books, my pharmacology notes, my stethoscope, my scrubs…”
Ben Ahmar Koné is all packed. The 25-year-old is used to moving, but his next journey is one he didn’t expect to make.
Freshly qualified as a doctor, he is about to return to Côte d’Ivoire. He hasn’t lived there since his teens, having left to get his medical degree in Ukraine.
He was in the fifth year of his studies when Russia invaded in February 2022.
Along with some other African students, Koné hired a taxi to take them from the city of Lviv towards the border with Poland. The driver dropped them 19 kilometres from the crossing, which they eventually reached on foot.
Like other people of colour fleeing Ukraine, Koné says he had trouble getting past the border guards. His group ended up waiting three days to cross into Poland, without shelter or supplies.
Stalled in France
From Poland, Koné and another French-speaking friend, a student pharmacist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, headed to the country that seemed to make sense – France.
“In Ukraine you’re really on your own,” says François Bambi, who made the journey with Koné. “French isn’t the language, your family isn’t around, so you depend on the people you meet there. We met there and we formed a very strong bond,” he explained to RFI’s Sylvie Koffi.
But once in France, neither of them were able to pick up their studies as they’d hoped. Ukraine not being part of the European Union, French universities didn’t recognise the courses Koné and Bambi had completed there.
“We weren’t really welcome in France. We didn’t really have all the same advantages that Ukrainians got, even though we’re all human and we all fled the war,” says Koné.
By then living in the French city of Le Mans, he was obliged to switch to biology and start over from scratch.
“We were told there was a shortage of doctors in France,” he says. “The first thing they could do is give us tests, try and recruit people and see our level, then give us a chance.
“But that wasn’t really what happened. Things were a lot more difficult.”
Exams under bombardment
Rather than write off five years of work, Koné decided to continue his medical degree in Lviv online.
When the time came to take finals, though, he had to do it in person. In July, Koné returned to Ukraine to sit his exams.
“It was a really big risk, because the town where I was, Lviv, got bombed,” he says. In the middle of one night, the university dorms were evacuated and students ordered to take shelter.
“With a bit of distance I’m realising that I might even have lost my life. But I had a goal to reach,” Koné says now. “The point of going to Ukraine was to bring back my degree, and I’m proud – above all of making my parents proud.”
Now a doctor, Koné will start his career back in Côte d’Ivoire.
He had dreams of specialising in cardiology and practicing abroad. But his Ukrainian medical degree doesn’t allow him to work in France.
RFI met him as his long-time friend was preparing to see him off. “I’m a bit emotional, as you’d expect,” said Bambi, who will remain in France for now.
“I wouldn’t call him my friend, he’s my brother, because the bond that we have goes beyond friendship,” added Koné.
It may not have been what he expected, but he’s happy to be able to practice in the country where he was born, he told RFI.
“I left Côte d’Ivoire with a dream and it’s just come true – I’m qualified.”
Source link : https://allafrica.com/stories/202312190010.html
Publish date : 2023-12-19 04:03:43