Colombo Telegraph

My SAITM Story

By Pulashi Rodrigo

Pulashi Rodrigo

I’m not one to share my personal stories, but it’s time to break the silence and clear up the misconceptions about SAITM where I’ve been studying for the past four years.

My family moved to Seychelles when I was 6, so I had my primary education at The International School Seychelles. When it was time to come back I was 14 and had to start my O’Level course here in Sri Lanka. Since I had never learnt Sinhala (having only gone to Montessori in Sri Lanka) I had no option but to enter an international school. So I completed my secondary education at Elizabeth Moir School.

I excelled in school and was made a House Captain and Senior Prefect within a year of joining. My GCE O’Level results were 7As and 3Bs and my GCE A’Level results were 4As (there were no A Stars at that time). I won Edexcel awards for both examinations. The purpose of this is not to brag but to educate those who think students that fail A’Levels go to SAITM.

I wanted to pursue a career in Medicine but unfortunately those who sit London A’Levels are not eligible to enter state universities in Sri Lanka and studying Medicine at a reputed foreign university is ridiculously expensive as most don’t offer scholarships for this course. In 2010 I decided to do a Bachelors in Medical Bioscience at Monash University. After completing this degree I still had not given up my dream of becoming a Doctor so I looked for more options. I could have chosen any university with my results, however, my father had already spent more than 4 million rupees on my BSc degree so I was looking for cheaper options. That is why I decided to join SAITM in 2013 as the degree is a fraction of the cost of doing it abroad. Also, as I live at home, I would have no additional living expenses.

So here are some of the answers to the FAQs and misconceptions about SAITM:

1) Why are we striking?

We are not striking; it is the state medical faculties who are on strike against us because we are a private medical college. According to them, all education should be free, and yet they go for private tuition classes and work in private hospitals.

2) Anyone with money can enter SAITM and “buy” their degree

No. There are students with excellent results; and I can assure you there is nobody who has failed or done A’Levels in Commerce or Arts. In fact, our results are available at the Ministry of Higher Education so please feel free to go and have a look. We do not “buy” our degree; we work hard for it. There were 120 in my batch when we started but only 98 remain today because, contrary to popular belief, not everyone is passed just because we pay for our education.

3) The standard of education is bad at SAITM

No, the standard of education at SAITM is equal to if not better than those at state faculties. We have the same lecturers as state faculties, and they are not teaching us anything different to what they teach students at the state faculties. Having studied in a foreign university myself I can vouch for the facilities and standards of SAITM.

If you think the standards are low, let us sit for a common exam so we can prove the level of our standards. If students who study medicine abroad can come back and sit for the ERPM (Act 16) exam and then work here why can’t we do the same? We are Sri Lankan citizens, so give us equal rights.

4) Private education should be banned

Open your eyes and look around. Private education has been around for centuries. Some of the best education is paid for. There is private education for every other course except Medicine in Sri Lanka. You can pay for Law, Engineering, Business, IT, Nursing and any other course but I don’t see anyone protesting that. Some people think that a private medical college will threaten free education but this is not so. The state universities will still have the same number of places for those who qualify to enter. Out of around 25,000 students who qualify to enter state universities, only about 1200 are taken in for Medicine due to limited resources. So the rest of the students can enter private colleges like SAITM to fill the shortage of approximately 25,000 doctors in our country (according to the WHO).

5) We are unqualified so we will “kill our patients”

We are not the ones protesting on the roads every day; our university staff is not on strike; we are continuing with lectures and clinicals; we are studying every day; so which of us do you really think will “kill our patients”?

6) We don’t have enough clinical exposure

It is not the number of patients we see but how much we can learn from each patient. In some foreign universities students can’t examine patients due to racial issues and language barriers. The Government has also assigned us with a base hospital where we get the required training.

7) Why is the Kotelawala Defence University accepted by the SLMC but not SAITM?

Exactly. KDU is a private medical college that was approved by the previous Government but SAITM was not. Also, KDU does not have a teaching hospital (which is one of the criteria for approval) whereas SAITM has a teaching hospital. So why the double standard?

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