19 November, 2017

An Open Letter To The State Medical Students Of Sri Lanka

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.

Remember that.

Please return to your lectures and clinical training –today.

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Latest comments

  • 13
    2

    Tertiary education should NOT be free. Students should be charged 20~30% and Uni education should be uplifted using that money.. Poorer guys like me should be given interest free loans and get us pay the loan back when we become productive members in the field we study..
    Lot of countries including India, tertiary education is NOT free.
    When students pay: Professors/lecturers should feel more obligation on their teaching and get on with latest research work to keep up their knowledge.. In my time, Profs or Senior Lecturers are hardly seen at the faculty.. Lot of them work just 10 hrs a WEEK… When I started studies at Uni abroad, i was quite amazed to see all Profs/Lecturers work 10 hrs a day (NOT a week) .. Why not in SL? Free education??
    When students have to pay: their focus on SAITM, SLIT like issues or national level political issues should be reduced.. as they are paying for their education, they will give more priority to get best out of their own studies and leave those National problems with politicians and senior social leaders ..

    • 2
      1

      AVB….
      The problem in the Country education system is in your comment…..
      you wish the practices of foreign universities are adopted here….everyone wish that Sri Lanka have politicians like in West / Europe….
      But it is only wishful thinking….ground realities are much cruel..

      • 0
        0

        Lion no.It is the low income earners who have to bear the brunt of govt expense,even education.free education upto the AL: is acceptable.University education should be paid for from employment income.It should be considered as a loan calculated on the basis of the faculty, period of stay in the University.

        they should sit the finals in English or French or Russian or Chinese, which will mak them employable and not waste their time at the Fiort railway station.

    • 3
      0

      In the meantime, 16% of the population is diabetic and 33% pre-diabetic.

      Tuesday is diabetic day!

  • 7
    2

    Nicely composed piece. Our politicians feed on the public. They create issues that need not exist. Private education is available in most countries including India and Bangladesh. Why should Sri Lanka be an exception? The thought of students losing two years in protest is scandalous. Who will want to advise them to do this? They will regret it as time passes and they leave the university without completing their degrees. Our politicians create issues such as these and ethnic issues simply to keep themselves in power. Issues such as Buddhism as a state religion, Sinhalese as a state language, free education and no private education have kept the country back for decades. Let us give the politicians the boot and learn to be sensible. This writer is to be commended for exposing the truth behind the SAITM issue. It is just a pack of fellows feathering their own nests at the cost of the suffering of the students.

  • 8
    3

    What ever students says, political parties say, there should be private education (I also came a from a poor rural background). should be there if the education is to be expanded. Only a private medical college can provide the training with expensive equipment and instruments. Besides, everybody cannot get into the state medical schools. So, there should be a way to get into medical with money. I know some of the Parents whose children went to SAITM are not rich people. they are govt worked who struggled to give their children a better life.
    It is unfortunate, the govt look every thing in terms of votes and commis.

    • 7
      3

      UKno-hoo,

      Yes, the biggest beneficiary of SAITM was the children of the average citizen who didn’t have the money to send their kids abroad. It gave average students who wanted to become doctors an opportunity. That opportunity has been snuffed out by these greedy GMOA doctors some of whom lived in the Western Province but registered in rural schools so they can get into the medical faculty with lesser marks, all the while not attending , and taking private tuition. This is an ongoing scam.

      At the same time, these GMOA parasites never raise their voice about the standards of some of the universities in foreign countries such as Russia, China, Bangladesh, Ukraine ect where we allow graduates of these universities to sit for the SLMC exams. What a double standard? It is all about these GMOA parasites wanting to corner the market so they can gouge the public and hold the government hostage. These same GMOA parasites never raised their voice with the SAITM during the previous government but did an about turn with this government. What a bunch of hypocrites.

      • 3
        1

        Rajiv
        Purpose of medical education and licensing is not to benefit the average citizens. It is to get the best students and make sure the best medical services are available.
        All citizens including the average citizens are all given the chance to enter medical profession by way of the A/L exam. That is from where the merit list come from. If anyone is not happy how this list is prepared they should take this issue with the gov. but not with the SLMC or the GMOA.

        • 0
          2

          Eusense,

          No, not all students are given a fair chance to enter medical college by way of the A/L exam. The district quota system allows students will low marks to enter at the expense of others.
          If you want the best students, discontinue the district quota system.
          The SLMC and GMOA could have easily set the standard for SAITM. In fact, that was one of the solutions that was rejected by GMOA. Why? Because the greedy parasites at the GMOA do not want any competition.

          • 2
            0

            rajiv,
            I am all for getting rid of the district basis. That is why I wrote; take up this issue with the gov. and also with the UGC.
            SAITM situation is different. They should have got the accreditation and licencing gurantee from the SLMC before they started admitting students. Elsewhere in this column I have stated how students should be admitted to SAITM once it is accredited by the SLMC.

  • 4
    3

    Sri Lanka Med Students lacks any morals or ethics.

    They are classless and clueless like a bunch of buffaloes.

  • 6
    3

    How come the Government accepts Sri Lankan doctors qualified from Private Medical Schools in Nepal, Russia, etc. but not from Sri Lanka? Why discriminate our Private Universities? Our Government Higher Education Ministry has all the Powers to Moderate their standards and Performance. Even our state university Professors can Moderate SAITM.
    Why send our students to feed foreign universities at higher cost to our Sri Lankan parents while they could qualify in Sri Lanka. Why Deny or Prevent Higher education to our own children?
    Our Government Teaching staff may be worried that the SAITM students will perform even better than the students from the Government Medical Colleges.

  • 5
    3

    Who is Grusha Andrews?
    Apparently he/she has still not understood the real issue here. It is really not safeguarding free education that the future and the current medics are concerned about, it is the standard of medical education and safeguarding their profession from under-qualified medics joining their ranks.
    Yes, we need private education in all fields of study including Medicine. But medicine is different from most other fields in all countries. A medical council consisting of medics will decide which medical schools are accredited to receive medical licences. Those gov. have given these professional bodies total freedom to maintain criteria for accreditation and issuing licences. In SL it is the same except the gov. is trying to interfere with the activities of this body. In other words politicians are trying to decide which schools should get accreditation and who should get licences.
    What SAITM should do first is get accreditation from the SLMC. Second, they should admit students from the same merit list used by the state schools (once state medical students are selected from the merit list next should be for SAITM followed by students for Dentistry, veterinary, agriculture and bio sciences.

  • 4
    2

    Grusha, you should be the savior for these bunch of self-imposed idiots, misled by the opportunist and the petty minded so-called GMOA the hooligans. Just imagined that boycotting lectures for 600 hundred days, what a crime. They and their cronies ruined 600 days of work which almost two productive years. GMOA and the university trade unionist is totally responsible for this carnage. The question here is did any of these GMOA’s private practice doctors stayed away from attending their duties? No! No! they jolly well pocketed millions from the poor patients and misled the innocent looking students on the road leaving their poor parents in tears. Who is answerable for this colossal waste? This is only happening in Sri Lanka boasting of 100% literacy. GMOA doctors are selfish, opportunist and narrow-minded lot.

  • 4
    2

    What I cannot understand is why the university authorities failed to implement the established disciplinary procedure against the students not attending classes. I understand that a student must attend a minimum of 75% lectures and tutorial classes to be permitted to continue studies. The rot started when the North colombo medical college was closed is continuing. What ever it is private education has come to stay and we will miss another oppotunity is SAITAM is closed. Its going to be a costly mistake.

  • 2
    3

    Grisham,Grusha, Grusha from where on earthe did your parents find that awful name.Never mind that.What is your gripe.? Let us look at the facts. OK? Students who cannot find admission to govt medical college now try other ruses. I know of students who have failed to enter med school but whose parents are poor and cannot afford the profit making fees charged by SAITM. Those poor students languish while students who got lesser marks become doctors because they have the money. Can’t you see the inequity here? There is a simple solution. The govt should double or treble the no of places for med students with sponsorships from the private sector, and retaining the merit based system for admission. This the stupid govt and it’s dumb health Minister refuse to see. I fully sympathise with the med students who deserve all our support. BTW what did your parents do to be able to fund your private med studies? Did they sell dry fish by any chance like Arjuna Aloysius father.?

    • 1
      3

      Percy—–

      Are we to close all international schools high end super markets luxury cars, planes leaving Srilanka and expensive clothes etc just because the poor cant afford them. 70% of the world is poor and 1% own 50% of the world’s wealth. Are we to eliminate the 1% the way revolutionary Marxist’s lead by Lenin preached ‘Expropriate the Exproprates.”A Lamborgini owner when he was suggested that he could have supported several poor families with the price of the car he commented that with the purchase he has already supported the workers who made tires and tubes ,steel, seats, air bags. horns, oil ,carpets, lights, Nuts and bolts etc etc..

      • 3
        1

        What a comparison?? This is the very reason that every Jack and Jill should not be allowed Medical education.

        • 0
          1

          To Eusense
          You have hit the nail on the head. The problem is the Jacks and Jills already in the profession.

          • 1
            0

            Upali

            Explain

          • 0
            0

            Upali
            No sign of explaining!
            These already in the profession are not J & Js.
            They were the best of over quarter million A\L students. This shows your ignorance.

      • 2
        2

        Upali

        You should drag Percy from wherever he is now and throw him in one of the tough forest Monastery.

        Such people live in parallel universe. They don’t live here now and don’t let others live.

    • 1
      1

      Relax, Percy. Nowhere does Gruesome Grusha claims to have studied medicine.

      • 0
        0

        Then why is she leading a pro SAITM mob?

    • 2
      2

      Percy – proletarian pretender

      Let rich people spend their ill gotten wealth in this way.
      Let the private Uni set up bursaries from its own income to help the poor students.
      Set reasonable entry qualification for all students.
      Set standard examination papers for all students.
      Appoint a supervising penal that would ensure standards.

      ……….
      There are millions of ways you can increase the intake of medical students.

      Make sure your grand children don’t benefit from burseries destined for poor students.

      • 1
        0

        Native Veddas
        I think it is wishful thinking on your part to expect me to cohabit with you in a jungle! People of your ilk are a bane on civilised society. Go, get some education, some culture, learn to communicate without being obscene and most of all be true to your own beliefs if you have any.

        • 0
          1

          Percy

          Having read your typing I have decided to refrain from getting “some” education, some culture, …………….

          You tend to forget what you typed in your earlier/previous trash.

  • 3
    2

    The university students think that they are privileged and other youth in our country don’t have the right to have the same privilege they have. It is not only about SAITM. Every time a private medical school was started these privileged brats have protested and closed it down. They don’t realize that due to standardisation of university entrance many students who are far more deserving don’t get an opportunity to enter universities.

    From the 256,309 students who qualified for university entrance for 2015/2016 only 47,409 students were admitted. That means 208,900 students did not get a chance to enter universities. The only option for these students is to find alternatives or if they can afford it to go abroad. As a nation we should be able to provide an alternative to these students.

    A nation cannot allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to dictate terms to the government otherwise why do we need a government. The university policy should be if you want to protest you have the right but the university should kick them out first. It is the public that is paying for their education.

  • 3
    0

    “……..reiterating your intellectual superiority to SAITM students”

    I do not think that the state university medical students can call them superior to SAITM as the method of selection is the district quotas system and so it does not mean that the students in the state medical faculties have scored the higher marks than the rest not selected. There are many in the state medical faculties have been selected with just three passes from some so called poor districts when students in privileged districts students have got much better results such as 2A and C and left out. So now these students with three simple passes are claiming they have scored and fared better than those with 2A and C .

    It is such students who have badly led down by the dubious system of selection have got enrolled in SAITM. With the abolition of SAITM the Government should have also abolished the district quota system and reestablish pure all island merit as the basis of admission to universities.
    It is argued SAITM to be abolished as it involves patient’s lives and the need for high standards. So putting the same argument at least for admission to medical faculties students should be selected on purely merit on an all island basis and a 2A and C is better than 3 passes as patient’s lives are involved. Due to district quota system students with 3 passes have found into Medical faculty displacing the 2A and C!

    Further district quota system is abused when students now enrolling in a rural school and bribe the school authorities and get them marked present but study privately in Colombo!

    • 5
      0

      District basis for admission should be now terminated. We had close to 50 years of this unfair system rather than the gov. attempting to improve facilities to these backward districts. SAITM students/parents or any others supporting them should fight to remove this debunked system of selection rather than fighting against the SLMC and the GMOA.

  • 3
    0

    Prevent private practice for the GMOA goons. After all they benefitted from state education and must serve the people at public hospitals. The same logic must apply to them.

  • 0
    0

    The SAITM issue is just a hint as to what is in store. It is well known that SAITM had political clout but the State university medical did not. It is quite unconscionable to let the strike go on this long.
    What this shows is the language/religion divide is a façade – the real driver in Lanka is preservation of privileges. The tussle is about who takes the bigger share.

  • 0
    2

    University students should understand that they are at the mercy of public money paid by public taxesand mostly those poor women working in the middle east. So, they do not have rights to fool around instead of going to classes. —Universities are politicized that is why those things are allowed. IT is the same reason, that universities students should pay fees. Poorest students should be supported with scholarships.

    • 0
      0

      Jim Softy the Dimwit

      Do the poor women folks who work in the medieval middle east kingdoms pay Tax?

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