By Somapala Gunadheera –
The medical students’ boycott of lectures has continued for the last three months. Neither the President nor the Prime Minister appears to have succeeded in putting an effective end to this tragedy, despite many announcements in the papers that continuous efforts were being made by the authorities to settle the matter.
Perhaps they are resorting to the JR method of ‘cure by disregard’ that was tried out in the eighties when a similar situation arose during his incumbency. That stand-off resulted in a downturn of the national learning curve that became a permanent loss to our knowledge base. A quick fix that compromised the basic fabric! Besides, the cure was discriminatory, as the have-nots vegetated at home helplessly, losing precious time, while the effluent went abroad for further education and bettered their prospects. It is earnestly hoped that the present President who has come from a modest background, would not resort to such thuggish policies to serve the purpose by sacrificing the deprived.
Some parents of the striking students have appealed to the UGC and the President to help resolve the problem but to no avail. The Minister of Higher Education and Highways has forwarded a formula to settle the issue. Unfortunately the GMOA has split hairs on it without realizing that by trying to exclude outsiders, they are truncating their tribe. Such intervention is sure to starve the Minister’s first portfolio, pushing the unfortunate students on to his second. The activists should come up with a workable amendment to the Minister’s proposals to achieve their objective, without sacrificing the interests of the budding doctors. The solution to the SAITM problem lies elsewhere. Perhaps the regulation of the apparent disparities in training, remuneration and facilities among state and private medical faculties may be a possible solution. Using medical students’ strike to solve it has failed so far. Nor is it likely to succeed hereafter
In an article entitled “Ending medical lecture boycott”, I wrote to the Island soon after the trouble started, I said, “What is needed immediately to initiate action on the UGC plea (to resume medical studies) is a definite target for the resumption of studies. This can be done by the medical faculties issuing a crash lecture schedule to cover up lost time, with immediate effect.” It is learnt that an effort in this direction made by a single University has failed, as it was not a coordinated move. All medical faculties should make a joint start by announcing the date for this year’s annual exams. At the same time the students must be specifically told that only those who collect the necessary credit hours would be allowed to sit the exam.
It is said that there is disparity among the lecture hours earned by the respective Faculties. The crash programme of lectures should provide for this anomaly. Once the schedule is issued with definite notice that only those who complete the schedule would be allowed to sit the exam, the chances are that the bulk of students would decide to resume their studies. They will be followed by the few who have been presumably persuaded by vested interests to keep away from lectures. The resuming students should be protected from harm from possible disruptive elements.
Thus the final solution to the boycott of medical lectures lies in the collective hands of the respective Vice Chancellors. I trust they would rise to the occasion, if they are genuinely committed to their responsibilities and proceed resolutely without vacillation. Let us not throw away the leaves we have already collected at the sight of a fleeting deer!