By Grusha Andrews –
More than 600 day have passed since the initiation of the self-imposed boycott of lectures and clinical training by the state medical students in Sri Lanka in protest to the SAITM. You may have done so in the spirit of safe guarding free education, as a follower of the herd, reluctantly or forced in to boycott. You have lost over six hundred days of the prime of your youth, the peak of your university education. Unlike other streams of study perhaps, medicine is not only a curriculum, it is an art. This art ought to be practiced frequently, diligently, religiously, and continuously for the sake of mankind. How you approach the continuity of your education will affect the safety of the public as much as protecting free education.
As a doctor, you will one day be called upon to make great sacrifices. Your noble profession will demand these of you: great tolerance and equanimity; bearing unimaginable physical, mental and emotional hardship; common sense and grit; humanity and the ability to distance yourself from rhetoric; make calls of judgement, sometimes without all the evidence at hand.
I will not repeat the sequence of events and the collateral damage done to the students, patients, parents and the country at large by this issue since they are well known. Each fraction of the stakeholders have their own views and convictions. Each version, depending on whose telling the story is deplorable and is a depiction of the erosion of the rule of law and the failure of the system. It is a depiction of the sorry state of governance in general and the absence of a moral compass for national conscience.
You have spent a large part of your energy and time on the roads, public spaces and on social media reiterating your intellectual superiority to the SAITM students. Some of those claims are literally true. Yet, some arguments don’t hold water. However, there is one unshaken common chain that binds you forever to the SAITM students. That is the undeniable fact that both of you, the state student and the SAITM student are the victims of politicians or those with political ambition. You are both the victims of politicians who have made millions, perhaps billions in exchange to hope. Your struggle has now gone out of your hands in to the violent opportunists. You fought with all your might, hearts, toil and tears. You fought it with your youth, your education and the heartburn of your parents.
The government has given proposals to address the issues arising from this sordid, chronic, national issue. An imperfect political trap that has fed on the corruption of politicians, apathy of the SLMC and the relevant ministries can never generate perfect solutions. But I believe that these solutions address the salient issues. It is a road map, if followed, will bring forth some acceptable solutions. A decade old problem will not be solved overnight. The administrative and legal processes will take time to complete. Please be mature enough to understand that in the real world all problems cannot be solved at your youthful utopic pace.
Understand that even one more day of boycotting your education will only feed the hope of opportunistic politicians of using you as scapegoats for putrefying this problem, deviating from operationalizing the solutions. Your wasted youth does not matter to them. Understand that within the GMOA are grandiose presidential hopefuls and pipe dreamers who believe that they can ascend to power riding the horse of “defending free education”. They portray themselves as the Messiahs. But in reality they are parasites feeding on your idealism. Understand that among many well-meaning university professors are few ruthless men and women who claim your youth by pretending to be heroes. They believe that prolonging this problem will catalyze a change of government. In that Promised Land of an overthrown government lies their claim for power, position, vice chancellorships and irregular financial gain from a new government. If you go back to medical faculty tomorrow, their dream castles will come crashing down. So they really need to keep you out of university.
One more parting thought.
The politicians and all other manipulators who have usurped your genuine struggle to keep you off your medical education, in my view , are criminals. The SAITM students whom you passionately oppose and ridicule, no matter how flawed their narrative is, are not criminals. For a moment distance yourself from your deeply held convictions and think as an outsider. If you were to meet the people who are plotting to keep you away from your medical education to fuel their political gain tomorrow ,you might rise from your seat and greet them. God forbid you might even prostrate in front of them. If you were to meet the politicians who are the architects of this problem, face to face, there is a chance that you might even “Sir” them. But they are criminals. The students of SAITM may be a lot of unacceptable things in your view: but they are not criminals.
You will do more for free education if you remember your struggle today as students when you are qualified doctors tomorrow. First become doctors. Do not be pawns in the hands of anyone, not even your teachers; not your unions; not even your brother. Be a free standing man or a woman. You will have more bargaining power to fight for free education, equity and social justice being fully qualified doctors as opposed to resisters on a contraption.
Your worth to our nation far surpasses that of the criminal politicians and the ineffective corrupt administrators who are responsible for nearly 4 million human days lost. Do the math. Over 6000 medical students boycotting their education for over 600 days. And this is just you. This is not counting the lost human days of the SAITM students. They too are your brother and sister. Along the path of your life you will understand that the SAITM students are not your enemy. The opportunists are your enemy.
You are a mine of intellect, imagination and moral courage.
Please return to your lectures and clinical training –today.