Authorities ‘tinkering’ with healthcare degree programmes: student activists



By Sanath Nanayakkare


Student activists of Allied Health Services faculties of six universities engaged in a protest in Fort told The Island Financial Review yesterday that moves were afoot to reduce the duration of their degree programme, which could deprive them of the opportunity of acquiring all the necessary skills for their professions. Such a measure, they said, wouldn’t be necessary if adequate funds were made available for this field, and a proper decision making process was in place.


"If 6% of GDP had been allocated for higher education by the authorities, as the FUTA had rightly demanded, such issues wouldn’t have cropped up. Lack of resources and lack of proper administrative practices have apparently enabled a few people to have a say in the quality and quantity of Allied Health Sciences degree programmes. We are told that this is to be done according to a request made by the GMOA. Actually they want to make it a 3+1 year programme and only a selected few will be enrolled for the fourth year.


‘If one is not admitted to the fourth year, the Grade Point Average (GPA) would be affected, and it could have an impact on our post- graduate studies. The Higher Education Ministry and the UGC enrolled us to universities, so that any administrative or academic decisions regarding our degree programmes should be taken by them, and not by the GMOA. The chairperson of the UGC is not aware of these issues. She hasn’t been updated on what’s going on," Rajitha Prasad, president of the Allied Health Sciences Student s’ Union of the Peradeniya University said.


UGC chairperson Professor Kshanika Hirimburegama denied this allegation and said she is very much involved in bringing a solution to this issue. "The students are lying. We had several meetings some time ago to discuss this issue. The Minister of Higher Education chaired those meetings and the Dean of the Peradeniya Medical Faculty also participated in them. The Ministry of Higher Education and the UGC are fine with the four-year degree programme. We have no issues with a four-year degree programme being conducted. In fact, we made that decision in the first place. But these are reviewed by different parties involved in the process, and each party should take into account one another’s interests with mutual understanding, and move forward. Training is done by doctors and they deem a three-year programme would be sufficient. We consulted the Attorney General’s Department on this matter too," she said.


Dr.Nalin Soysa of the GMOA said this decision was taken according to a Supreme Court (SC) order. There was a commission called Gunadasa Commission, and we made submissions in this regard, and the matter was referred to the SC, then the SC delivered an order," he said.


However, the student activists are still engaged in the protest and say there are other issues in their faculties, especially at Peradeniya, Ruhuna and Jaffna universities, due to lack of infrastructure facilities, such as, hostels, libraries and laboratories.


"The main reason for this is we are treated as an underdog of the medical faculties of the universities. They don’t realize the value of Allied Health Services," student activist Suresh Madushanka said representing the Ruhuna University.


"The Mahapola scholarship grant is only Rs. 2,500 and it has not been revised for seven years in proportion to the cost of living of the day. Most of us are from the villages belonging to low-income families. However, we are not raising these issues here. Orly what we ask is please retain the quality and quantity of our degree programme without doing any tinkering with our professional qualification," Lahiru Madhushanka, Students’ Union Media Coordinator said.


V. Sheron, student activist of the Jaffna University said, "There are students from all parts of the country in the Jaffna Allied Health Services faculty. We are all anxious to have this issue resolved and resume our studies as soon as possible. We urge the authorities to look into our legitimate grievances."


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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