Parents and students in a quandry : KDU to charge Rs. 1.3 mn from SAITM students | Sunday Observer

Parents and students in a quandry : KDU to charge Rs. 1.3 mn from SAITM students

12 August, 2018

The Government’s decision on the SAITM crisis was, to abolish it and admit its students to the Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) Medical Faculty. It was a solution to the long problem, lasting several years, taking away a valuable lifetime of SAITM students. On the other hand, the students of state medical faculties were also severely affected with a probable future collapse of the health sector in the country.

But again, a question has arisen as to when the Government’s decision will be implemented. The KDU Faculty of Medicine has decided to charge an annual fee of 1.3 million rupees for admitting SAITM students. Accordingly KDU has informed SAITM parents to pay Rs. 600,000/- at the initial stage of the recruitment of the students who are, to begin studies from August 6 onwards.

Parents who have paid the total sum (Rs. 6.5 million) for the medical degree at SAITM as well as parents who received scholarships by the Government to send their qualified students to SAITM are also among the hapless parents. The SAITM Student Action Committee (SAC) has informed the President and the Higher Education Ministry that repayments to KDU is an injustice done to them.

Three students who were admitted to SAITM through scholarships are the most adversely affected due to this financial issue. They are unable to pay a sum of Rs. 1.3 million annually,as their families belong to the low income sector. Many SAITM students too find it impossible to raise such money without settling the loans they have already obtained to receive SAITM education. Meanwhile some had sold or mortgaged their properties to raise the money for fees.

According to a member of the SAC only batch numbers 13 and 14 are not facing financial problems due to KDU payments. Batch No 14 (who were in their first year when SAITM was abolished) has now registered with KDU.

“KDU intake is favourable for them. But all other students have to pay millions of rupees extra. This is unfair. Batch No 12 has to pay an extra Rs one million while batch No 11 faces Rs 2.3 million extra payment. Students of batches between eight to ten have to pay an extra Rs 2.6 million while all others have to pay an extra 1.3 million rupees” the SAC member told.

According to SAC there are no positive signs from the Government yet on this matter.

“All of us (980 students who are to be recruited by the KDU) had sent our individual grievances to the President by last Wednesday. We believe, the President will give us a solution” SAC member said.

However, the Minister of Higher Education told media last week that it was a matter of internal administration of the Kotelawala Defence University. Several attempts made to contact Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to inquire into this matter failed.

Meanwhile, employees of SAITM have begun to cry for their wages as of last month. They say that the owner of SAITM, Dr. Neville Fernando, had to pay compensation for SAITM employees, using a proper method of closing a business. However, Dr. Neville Fernando had recently told a newspaper, that since he no longer owns SAITM and does not generate any income out of it he does not have the capacity to pay its staff . He also said, the employees had to submit their salary grievances to the President, who decided to abolish SAITM.

It is heartening to note that the Government did take measures to secure the educational privilege of SAITM students even after a lengthy period. But now the emerging problem is whether it is a perfect and sustainable solution. Innocent students’ future should not be held ransom for conflicts between public policies and private entrepreneurs. There is no doubt that the recruiting of SAITM sstudents to KDU involves an enormous cost. Hence, rather than blaming KDU, what need to be done is to try to solve the issues through a more reasonable approach acceptable to all stakeholders.