by Roel Raymond
Medical students island wide continued this week, their protests against the time reduction (from four years to three) of the degree available to students of Allied Health Science.
Beginning their spate of protests the week before, a large number of medical students from the country’s hospitals, had gathered outside the Ministry of Higher Education, the University Grants Commission and the Health Ministry, protesting a decision that would lead to what they termed ‘another useless degree’.
In a letter that was sent to Prof. S.V.D.G. Samaranayake, the Chairman of the University Grants Commission, the Joint Council of Professional Students of Medicine had asked if authorities wanted another set of university students protesting useless degrees, around the Lipton Circus.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader last week, President of the JCPSM, Ravi Kumudesh alleged underhand, covert dealings between certain members of the GMOA, the Ministry of Higher Education and the Chairman of the University Grants Commission, leading to the reduction of the time frame of the AHS degrees and so, tampering with its validity.
Kumudesh alleged that AHS students were facing discrimination in various forms by administrative officials in campuses island wide and said that they would continue their strike indefinitely, from the 24th of June onwards.
Prof. S.V.D.G. Samaranayake, Chairman of the UGC, when contacted by The Sunday Leader last week, denied receiving a letter by the JCPSM, stating that he would not accept letters from every protesting faction, but only those that came to him with direct relevance to the UGC and its functions and duties.
Professor Samaranayake drew attention to the fact that the JCPSM was not a student union but a trade union, citing Act 1115(1) of the UGC that specifies that a “Higher education institute may recognize any union, society or other association of students provided the union, society or other associations consists ‘entirely of students of that institution’.”
Defending the move to reduce the duration of a four year course to three, Prof. Samaranayake said that the decision had been made following discussion with the ‘right thinking, relevant parties’, laying weight on the fact that it was the quality of the course of study, not its duration that was of importance.
Prof. Samaranayake went on to explain that agitating students with political inclinations went hand in hand with universities that offered free education and said that it was not the aspiration of the university system to be shaken by them, but instead to focus on the learning process of the students in order to help them develop academically.
Meanwhile, in spite of scheduled protests for the 24th (Thursday) outside the University Grants Commission and the Ministry of Higher Education not taking place as well as it was planned, JCPSM President Ravi Kumudesh had vowed to go on with the protests if a solution was not given to them.
He had added that they were in discussion with other trade unions – including the nursing unions, in furthering the proposed strike action. Hospitals island wide had also reportedly suffered as a result of the ongoing strike.