SAITM Students’ Stories (Four Samples)

Colombo Telegraph

By Vinu Grero 

A few days back I went for a leaflet campaign and one question asked by the people was if the students at SAITM are qualified to do a medical degree. A lot of SAITM students are speaking up and this is what I have to say #mysaitmstory

I am a 5th year medical student at SAITM and a past pupil from Lyceum International School Nugegoda.

Like most, I too had a dream of becoming a doctor.

I completed my A/Ls following the Cambridge syllabus and achieved A* and A grades of Chemistry, Biology and Physics.

The Sri Lankan government University has no place for students who pass out from school completing their studies under the London syllabus. So these students need to obtain their tertiary education from a private university. Luckily in Sri Lanka there are several private universities providing degrees in engineering, business management, IT and so on. But SAITM is the only university giving the opportunity for students to do medicine after following the London syllabus (and as well as students who were not fortunate enough to get into the state universities).

With the results I obtained for A/Ls I looked for several universities abroad and I did have the opportunity to get in to some of the best to do medicine but unfortunately my parents were reluctant to send me for several reasons and I was just 16 years old at this time.

So I decided to continue my studies here in mother Lanka. I applied to SAITM which has UGC approval therefore was legally entitled for SLMC registration. To enter I had to undergo two interviews, one which was held by SAITM and the other by the UGC. The total fee for my education was 6.2 million (not 12 million).

Here at SAITM, we are taught by some of the best doctors, consultants and professors in the country. Some who have taught in state universities for many years. Coming this far was not easy for us. We had to work hard through many exams just as in any medical college. Our exams are conducted by SAITM but we have external examiners from state universities at our examination and if any student was not up to the standard they would be failed just like in any university. So just cause we pay for our education, it doesn’t come easy. We need to earn it!

In the past, our students have been denied to do their clinical training at government hospitals which had been offered to SAITM. Therefore SAITM has made a path for us to obtain our clinicals from our very own hospital and from certain private hospitals in the country. As we are guided by the same lecturers as the state medical faculties I don’t see that there is a difference in the knowledge we get. The Students at SAITM have learnt to gather the maximum out of what we have been offered.

Sri Lanka has more than 100 private school and over 5000 students pass out each year and majority of these students want to do medicine and be doctors. It’s just sad to see that Sri Lankan government is yet not able to provide a proper path for these students. Studying abroad is not easy. It cost a lot and this money could be kept within the country if the government had established a way to do so.

At present, there are over 800 students at SAITM, students who are smart and very well qualified. I hope you would take some time and read their stories. Closing down SAITM is not the answer. Nobody would want their dreams destroyed! Education is a right for all no matter what background we come from. So I am asking you to help us! #standwithSAITM

By Bushra Bashith 

Back then at family gatherings people were confused when I told them I was studying at SAITM; they didn’t know such a thing existed. Now the conversations goes like “ohh thaaat private medical campus. Is it true there are underqualified students? Aren’t they the ones going on protests?”

Well, firstly it is not us wasting your money and causing your evening mayhem and secondly I’m sick of having to listen to all this bogus information and having to prove myself time and again! So let me share MY SAITM story:

I had my primary education at Methodist College Colombo but my parents had to migrate to Canada on professional grounds. Since they wanted the cultural ties retained, they decided to return to Sri Lanka after 3 years. I couldn’t go back to Methodist as they didn’t have English medium at the time, so I chose Lyceum International school, one of the leading international schools in Sri Lanka. With a lot of commitment and dedication, I passed the Cambridge Ordinary level examination with 5As* 2As and 1B, with a 100 for BIO and then A-levels with 4As in 2013. YES, it is super weird to be posting my results like this but people need to know that WE EARNED our place at SAITM! Not just me, ALL my friends at SAITM did too!

My parents and I had a well respected and known university in Pakistan in our minds ever since I decided I wanted to do medicine, they even offered me a scholarship; But with time I really didn’t want to go there. My parents may be professionals but we aren’t millionaires and me being their first child, I knew they wouldn’t be able to afford the horrendous fee some of these universities asked for; For those of you who aren’t aware, medical degrees are unbelievably expensive in the developed countries and they hardly give scholarships. On the other hand I’d have to learn a whole other language if I was to study in China or Russia etc. Whilst doing some research, I came across SAITM and how it was UGC approved and Mahinda Rajapaksha, who was the president at that time, had even given scholarships to 10 students who just missed the Z-score. My parents were worried but I too really didn’t want to go abroad and live alone when there was something like this in my own country, where I could work on my Sinhala and study diseases prevalent in my country! When asked around, even GMOA consultants recommended this place. So after applying, I had to face 2 interviews, one of which was with the UGC board. The fee was 7 million for 5 years, but I earned a scholarship after having sat for their scholarship exam, which made it a bit better on my parents. Yet only my parents and I know the trouble they go through, to save up that money each year while also providing the best for my brother.

Yes this is a very long story but that’s just the struggle of getting into SAITM. Then there was the struggle of surviving in med school! There are so many misconceptions about our syllabus that I have been personally questioned on:

1) NO WE ARE NOT TAUGHT BY RUSSIAN DOCTORS! WE ARE TAUGHT BY SRI LANKAN PROFESSORS AND CONSULTANTS WHO ALSO LECTURE/ OR USED TO LECTURE AT STATE UNIVERSITIES– im proud to say we have the best of the best, some well-known throughout SRI LANKA

2) WE WORK ON ACTUAL DEAD BODIES- We had 2 years practice on cadavers and yes now during our clinical training we first practice CPR, cannulation etc on dummies, in the skills lab and later on patients.

3) WE NEED 80% , SOMETIMES 100% ATTENDANCE TO SIT FOR EXAMS – We do not have the luxury of cutting classes as and when we wish and go on protests on the road and we will not because we value the money our parents spend on us

4) THE DEGREE ISNT GIVEN TO US ON A SILVER PLATE – there are credit exams and then the finals with MCQs , SEQs and vivas. (we even have negative marking on MCQs which makes it much harder, which has recently come to my notice, was not heard of in some universities) and at the 2nd MB (ANAT, PHYSIO, BIOCHEM AND HISTO) if we fail, we must sit for the repeat exam (for which there is a fee too) and if we fail again we are demoted and have to pay for that too, unlike our free education counter parts who can spend as long as they want to qualify.

5) WE CANNOT SIT FOR ACT16 AS WE ARE NOT FOREIGN GRADUATES- it is an exam to test your ability to treat Sri Lankan patients with diseases prevailing in Sri Lanka. so why do we have to sit for that when we study in Sri Lanka?

Shabnam Sambriya Wallin

I am in my 4th year now, I thought this problem would be settled eventually but even after the court ruling people are still not letting us have what is rightfully ours.

For the readers who are confused- we are willing to sit for any common state exam but they will not let us! We may not get on the streets to voice ourselves but DO NOT be fooled by the false information given to you. If you have any doubts do feel free to ask us. Please do try to understand our situation.

For those against private MEDICAL universities, WHY ONLY MEDICINE? WHY ONLY SAITM? What about the thousands graduating from international schools?

Whilst you fight for your free education MY PARENTS work hard continuing to pay MY EDUCATION AND YOURS. I only hope that you realize the people you block from going about, are the very people who pay for your education. Free education, is it FREEDOM of education?!

I am Shabnam Sambriya Wallin, a final year Medical student from the 5th batch (the 1st batch to be UGC approved) of the Faculty of Medicine at SAITM. I completed my secondary education at a leading International Girls’ School here in Colombo where I sat for my Edexcel London Ordinary and Advanced Levels.

The decision to go through a private education system was not something that I made but I’m very grateful to both my parents and teachers for opening up a world of opportunities to me. Yes, my primary and secondary education were not free but only my parents and I are aware of the struggle of paying for each term. Although I did quite well in the Commerce subjects I made the choice to go through the Science stream because my goal was to become a Gynecologist.

Despite being in the private education system I sat for the Local Ordinary levels in Grade 9 (without any tutoring or formal lessons in the local syllabus) where I chose 6 subjects and scored 4As and 2Cs. Following this I sat for my Edexcel Ordinary level with 7 subjects scoring 5 As, 1 B and 1 C.

For my Advanced Levels I did 4 subjects (Core Mathematics/Mechanics, Biology, Physics and Chemistry) where I got a fairly good result of 1 A, B and 2 Cs – Which without doubt qualify me to do MBBS in a foreign university.

The reason I’m being completely transparent with my results as well as the details of high school education is because I want to challenge the false propaganda that “SAITM takes in under-qualified students”.

We all dream. Some of them are achievable and some are not. One such dream of mine was to become a doctor. This was a choice that I made and NOT a career path that my parents picked out for me. This choice was driven by some traumatizing events that I went through in my early years. First it was the loss of my younger sister, Mushira who passed away with a congenital heart defect (“hole in the heart” was what my parents were told which I now know is the Fallot’s Tetralogy). Even though this happened during my childhood, I still remember the feeling of sheer helplessness that came with not being able to do anything while you lose a loved one before your very eyes. 
Then in 2010, loss struck again when I witnessed the death of my cousin who drowned. And again, I felt helpless even though I wanted to do something to save her.

A student like me who went through the private school system here in Sri Lanka cannot enter a State University since I’ve done my Edexcel Examinations. Nor can I afford to pursue a higher education abroad because of both the costs involved and because of my parents. This leaves students like me in a very tough position where we are forced to abandon our dreams of not just a higher education and a career here in Sri Lanka.

SAITM was my last and only resort – The only solution to an education system that has continued to sideline private school students who want to pursue an education in our birth country.
 Why do the State University students and the GMOA try to sweep us aside as though we don’t belong in this country? Why do they withhold our RIGHT to an education? Why do they make it seem like OUR CHOICE OF SERVING THIS COUNTRY a crime?

Studying medicine isn’t a bed of roses. Everybody knows that. We have been let down a numerous time by the majority who have misunderstood the two terms ‘Free Education’ and ‘Freedom of Education’! 
The blessing in disguise is that we are being taught by amazing consultants themselves. If we have mastered one thing so far, it sure is PATIENCE. Do I regret coming to SAITM……ABSOLUTELY NOT! We need more private universities like this so that all students who want to pursue their higher education can do so fearlessly in this country without having to flee abroad for good.

Chapani Radhika Kandanaarachchi 

Living in a society where more and more people are misled everyday by the false information being spread, I wish not to remain silent anymore.

I am a third-year medical student following my undergraduate degree at SAITM and a former student of Royal Institute international school, Nugegoda.

In the year of 2014, I entered SAITM with the entry qualifications of 4A*s for my Cambridge A Level examination, also having received the Best in Sri Lanka awards for my Cambridge O level (2012), and Cambridge AS Level (2013) results. Everyone who has known me, my parents, teachers, relatives as well as my friends, are aware of the amount of effort and passion I have towards what I do and it still, onto this day remain unceased.

Due to astounding amounts of bogus information being spread in the country by various parties, the students of SAITM are labelled as a bunch of underqualified, untalented and aimless individuals who have no right whatsoever to follow their career in medicine. For people like us, who have spent our whole lives focusing on nothing but our future goals, is it morally right to mentally torment us with such accusations? Our country stands out from all other prestigious and well developed nations in this world as free education is provided to her children without any discrimination. However, it is a well-known fact that the state universities ONLY enroll students passing out from Sri Lankan government schools. Therefore, for individuals who pass out from international schools, sometimes with better results than the ones already enrolled in government universities, do they not deserve a bright future?

I had countless opportunities to travel abroad and follow my degree in medicine, even at a cheaper cost, but I decided NOT to. It is not a hidden fact, that the parents of the foreign students are worried sick as to what might become of their children after sending them off to a completely new land, where there is no known kin and they have to learn foreign languages from the scratch even to communicate with the people. So, is it not wise that I decided to stay in my MOTHER COUNTRY, pay money to my own country, speak to my patients in my mother language, to go home every day knowing my parents will always be there to love and support me and always be under their direct protection?

Nothing ever starts perfect, everything grows to perfection only with time and effort. SAITM is undoubtedly a place that opened doors for many talented and innocent children in Sri Lanka, and it will one day contribute greatly to the education system of the country, if enough opportunities are given. Therefore, isn’t holding hands with us to improve any shortcomings the right thing to do now, rather than trying to destroy the futures of so many young, gifted individuals? We are children who have the potential to contribute to the well-being of our nation and children who can one day blossom to be great doctors, just like any other graduate from state faculties. So why not give us a chance to grow? If the citizens of our own mother land are trying to drag us down, who should we really TRUST?

We fear no one who tries to block our future road because we ourselves know, more than anyone, how much effort and time we are dedicating to our education and HOW MUCH WE DESERVE IT. Therefore, before believing all the biased stories spread in the social media today, solely for their personal benefit, jealousy and utter joblessness, I request everyone to seek the TRUTH behind all this. We were born in this country, we are PROUD CITIZENS who TRULY LOVE our country and we have EVERY RIGHT to remain in this country and follow our ambition.

Thank you.

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