Around 1,800 medical students from Tamil Nadu returned home after the Russia-Ukraine conflict began three months ago. Though the state and Union governments promised to find a solution to continue their education, no steps have been taken so far, extending the agony of the parents and students.
The Union government informed the Supreme Court about absorbing Ukraine-returned students during a hearing on March 22, while the Tamil Nadu government promised all possible help to the students. But months after the promises, neither government has laid a clear path.
The West Bengal government announced its decision to admit the returned students to the state-run medical colleges. Still, the National Medical Commission (NMC) and the health ministry have criticised the move citing regulations which have come as another setback.
As the uncertainty looms large on the return of the students to Ukraine, the parents and students held a protest in Chennai on May 15, seeking the intervention of the Union and state governments seeking a time-bound solution. The protest was organised by the Ukraine MBBS Students’ Parents Association (UMSPA).
The privatisation and commercialisation of higher and professional education have led to an increase in the cost of education. Families who cannot afford to pay high fees prefer foreign universities that charge less than 30% in self-financing colleges.
As soon as the conflict began in Ukraine, which is home to more than 45 medical universities, the students from across India studying there returned home. They were hoping for normalcy to return to go back to Ukraine and continue their studies.
“The war seems to be never-ending. The possibility of returning to Ukraine seems highly improbable, at least for now. With the conflict continuing for more than three months, the status of institutions, the possibilities of students returning without fear are diminishing slowly,” said T Kamalam, parent of a student who returned from Ukraine.
Her son, studying the third year of medicine at a Ukraine university, continues to attend the online classes.
“The online classes are going on now, which may not continue for long since the practical and theory examinations are pending. The students’ future is at stake, and the government needs to act immediately to save the dreams of thousands of parents and students.”
The fear among the students who witnessed the attacks in Ukraine had a psychological impact and remains unforgettable in their memories. This also adds to the agony of the parents and the students.
The parents and students are unaware of the future as no decision has been mooted either by the Union government or the NMC.
‘NEED A ONE-TIME SOLUTION’
Despite tall claims and promises, the solution is not in sight till now. The NMC has not spoken anything about the possibility of admitting the students to colleges in the country. Neither the Union government nor the health ministry has spoken about the raging issue of the returned students as well.
Countries like Poland, Hungary and Moldova had permitted Ukraine-returned students to continue their education in their respective countries.
“The best possible thing the government and NMC can do is admit the returned students in medical colleges in the county by special legislation. The government can ensure admission to the 542 medical colleges across the country. Seeking admission in any other country is highly impossible as the cost involved is high since most students belong to middle-class families,” Kamalam said.
The students have paid a considerable amount for a visa for the duration of the medical course of six years and insurance. If the government advises the parents to seek admission to other foreign countries, mobilising such a high amount could only burden the families.
“The students have sought admission in Ukraine and other foreign universities after qualifying in the NEET exam. They are eligible to get admission in colleges in our country, but several factors, including high tuition fees in self-financing colleges, remain a huge hurdle,” Kamalam said.
Most Ukraine universities charge Rs 3.5 lakh/annum as tuition fee, which is much lower than the fee charged for management quota in self-financing colleges.
“The fee for management quota seats is around Rs 12.5 lakhs apart from the hostel and other fees. This is one of the reasons for several socially and economically backward families to sacrifice their medical dream,” a parent of another second-year student said.
The parents expect the government and NMC to form a policy decision on Ukraine-returned students to ensure their medical dreams fructify. The privatisation of education and the resulting increase in the cost of education are the primary reasons for families seeking admission to foreign universities at a much lower fee.