Rajarata University crisis

Authorities promise building within three months

By Arthur Wamanan
The government and the Rajarata University authorities have acknowledged the shortcomings of the campus and have ensured the students’ demands are met by the next three months.
The Medical Faculty students of the Rajarata University staged a protest near the Presidential Secretariat on February 24 and the Police used tear gas to disperse them.
The students demanded that they be provided adequate facilities in order to complete the medical degree within the stipulated time.
The Medical Faculty of the Rajarata University was declared open on September 4, 2006 by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Five years down the line, the students have called the government to speed up the opening of the Clinical Training building.
The Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF), too, came down hard on the government for opening the faculty without providing all the facilities.
The medical students would be given theoretical and practical knowledge in the first four years of the course. The final year would be dedicated solely for practical sessions.
Incidentally, the government, too, had admitted that there had been a mistake in recruiting the students to the medical faculty five years ago.
The IUSF on Friday held a press briefing in Colombo and explained the difficulties faced by the Rajarata medical students.
The federation questioned the government on the actions taken to rectify the mistakes committed by the authorities.

IUSF Convenor Sanjeewa Bandara said the education of the students would be delayed by another year, if the Clinical Training building was not open for practical sessions by May. “The standard of the country’s education has deteriorated during the leadership of this government. The students are now forced to suffer because of the mistake made by the government authorities five years ago,” Bandara said.
In the meantime, the government and university officials while admitting the shortcomings faced by the faculty, are optimistic that the issue would be solved within the next three months.

Mistake while recruiting
Secretary to the Higher Education Ministry, Dr Sunil Jayantha Navaratne admitted that there had been a mistake while recruiting the students to the Rajarata campus in 2006.
He explained that the mistake was due to the fault of the Optical Reader of the Examination Department. He said that around 900 students were recruited additionally to the university due to the fault of the machine. “The medical faculty recruited 181 additional students as a result of this problem,” Dr Navaratne said.
The Secretary to the Higher Education Ministry, however, said that the students needed to be grateful for the steps taken by the government and the university officials to address the issue.
He added that the government had allocated Rs.250 million to buy the equipments to the Clinical Training building and Rs.1 billion for the construction of the building.

“Generally, we establish the facilities and then call for students. But in this case, it was totally different. We had to call the students first and then look into providing the facilities. However, we are doing what we can do at the moment and the students have to understand the situation,” he said. He also said that the government was trying to call back lecturers who had left the campus before their contracts expired. “We will welcome them back. The President and Higher Education Minister S B Dissanayake have been notified of this matter and they will see to it that adequate steps are taken,” he added. He also said that the Clinical Training building would be completed by the latter part of May. “There would be a delay of around two to three weeks. But, we cannot help that. We also need to understand the practical difficulties.”
Meanwhile, the university officials, too, called upon the students to be patient and cooperate with them to address the issue.

Registrar of the Rajarata University, A G Karunaratne admitted that the faculty could not fulfil the educational needs of the final year medical students. “Even I do not have adequate facilities. However, we are working towards ensuring that the students get to complete their studies,” he said.
The University Registrar said that the campus had recruited junior and middle level employees for the faculty. “In addition, there are five retired lecturers from the Peradeniya University,” he added.

About the Rajarata University

The Rajarata University of Sri Lanka (RUSL) located in Mihintale, 14 kilometres from the ancient, historical capital of Anuradhapura was established on November 7, 1995 through Gazette Notification No 896/2 as an affiliated university under the section 21 of the Universities Act No 16 of 1978. The university was officially opened on January 31, 1996. The University was later elevated to a National University, amalgamating the Polgolla and Puliyankulama Affiliated Universities.
The Rajarata University of Sri Lanka is an emerging university which was joined to the national university system. As at 2008 the university comprised of five faculties with over 2500 students and more than 150 academic staff members. The faculties of Social Sciences & Humanities, Management Studies, and Applied Sciences are located at Mihintale premises. The Faculty of Agriculture and the Faculty of Medical and Allied Sciences are established at Puliyankulama and Saliyapura.