16th January 2000
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Ailing Ayurveda Institute seeks treatment

By Hiranthi Fernando
A month long sathyagraha with no resultsThe students of the Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Institute at Yakkala have been on a sathyagraha campaign for over a month. Last Wednesday (January 12), students from several universities in the country showed their solidarity by picketing outside the institute.

These students believe the education and university authorities have not accorded them proper recognition since they were given university status in 1995.

"We have only a board to show our university status," commented Deeptha, a member of the Student Council. Deeptha Priyantha, who sat the Advanced Level exam in 1992, gained admission to the Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Institute in 1994. He followed a diploma course and is now in his final year.

This batch of students will be the last to receive their Diploma certificates. However, the study programme, lectures and examinations have all been delayed due to the student protests. "There is no purpose sitting for the examination unless our problems are resolved," they stressed.

The Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Institute was opened in 1929 as a private institute by Ayurvedic Dr. G.P. Wickramarachchi. In 1982, it became a state institute continuing with its diploma programme.

Graduates with a class were enrolled the as lecturers. After agitation by the students, the institute was granted university status in 1995, under the University of Kelaniya. The students admitted after this date would sit a degree exam.

However, the students have several grievances and demands. "Our lecturers have been designated college lecturers. The lectures we follow and the exams we sit under a college lecturer are not recognised. for a University Degree course," explained D.Y. Prasad, President of the Student Council. 

"We are asking for a staff consisting of professors, assistant professors, senior lecturers, lecturers and lecture probationers as in any other university. We are asking for similar status in staff." 

"We are also asking for graduates of the institute to be given the opportunity and facilities to undertake post-graduate studies," Prasad continued. "We are now at a dead-end after receiving our diplomas and degrees." 

According to the students, when the new status was given, a committee was appointed from the Kelaniya University. The committee had said they could do a post-graduate course. However, the UGC imposed an additional requirement by way of a qualifying exam before a post- graduate exam.

"There is little or nothing we can do about what is going on there," said Prof. K Tillekeratne, Vice-Chancellor of the Kelaniya University,speaking of the Ayurveda Institute's student protests. 

"A decision in respect of the status of the academic staff has to be taken by the University Grants Commission. The modalities should have been worked out at the time the institute was absorbed. However, there has been a delay. We are doing whatever is within our power to sort it out."

"The Committee of Deans of Kelaniya University are deliberating on it and a report and recommendations will be submitted soon. 

"The Senate of the University has been receptive.The solutions to the complex problems will have to be handled by the UGC," he said.

The students explained that their practical training is carried out at the adjoining Ayurveda Hospital. "Since we received university status, the hospital too should come under the Ayurveda Department," Prasad said. At present, the University Grants Commission or the Ministry of Higher Education do not have control over the hospital."

"There are no Ayurvedic professors in the country. We are asking for professors to be brought from India so that they could set up a research section and train staff for it," the students said.

The entire student course at the Ayurveda Institute is for five years, with an additional year of internship. "At present at the institue, we have only a first year batch and a final year batch," Deeptha Priyantha said.

"The final year batch is the last one to complete the diploma. We cannot sit the exam because there is no proper schedule," he added. Although university status was given in 1995, no students were taken in until 1998, so there is a gap of three years.

Another demand of the students is that new students be enrolled on the normal schedule. 

Prasad said, "Ayurveda is not yet in a developed state in Sri Lanka. It has to be improved and developed by research. In India it is greatly developed. 

"Foreigners take our ayurvedic materials, carry out research on them, manufacture drugs and send them back to us at a higher price. 

"For instance, the Japanese have patented a drug using our Kothala Himbutu. Our research facilities are not sufficiently developed to make full use of our national resources."

"We have written and approached everyone possible," the student leaders said. "All these five years, we have not had a suitable response or solution to our grievances. 

"That is why we have to resort to this action even though we ourselves are losing time by it."

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