Medical students are protesting against the colleges for charging them disproportionately high fees. It began from Chitwan in September, when the students rose to protest for 18 days demanding return of the extra fees charged by the college administration and seeking basic infrastructure. Some such protests were seen in Kathmandu as well demanding stern action against medical colleges charging unjustified fees. In Chitwan, the protests ended only after District Administration Office intervened, making Chitwan Medical College sign the agreement to return the extra fees taken from students. The students, however, have warned to resume the protest if the college administration does not abide by the agreement.
Now similar protest has erupted in Bhairahawa. Students of Universal College of Medical Sciences are protesting demanding that the college return the additional fees it charged them. The students have taken this route after the college did not comply with the government’s directive last month that medical colleges under TU should return the additional fees charged to the students. According to the students, medical colleges are charging an additional one million rupees, apart from thousands of rupees under other titles such as examination fee. The students protesting for this just cause must be heard and their demands must be fulfilled because medical colleges are charging much higher amount than the one set by the government. According to the fee structure set for medical colleges by the government, colleges in Kathmandu valley cannot charge more than Rs 3.85 million each from MMBS students, while colleges outside Kathmandu Valley cannot take more than Rs 4.245 million each from such students. But as things stand, medical colleges are charging as high as 5.5 million. This extortion-like activity goes unchecked mainly because most medical college owners are affiliated with political parties and they act with abandon under political protection.
Medical colleges had been charging exorbitant fees from students and Dr Govinda KC, the crusader of reforms in medical education, had raised this issue. Then the government in September 17, 2015 had set the fees for MBBS at Rs 3.85 million inside the Kathmandu Valley and Rs 4.2 million outside the Kathmandu Valley. Today the students are demanding that this decision should be respected. Thus their demands are just and valid. But the government’s response to such just calls has not been fair. In Chitwan, for example, instead of pressuring the medical college to return the additional fees, the students themselves were arrested. The government has sent ultimatum to such medical colleges to return the fee. Now it needs to follow through its directive and ensure that it is implemented. Medical colleges have often defied the government’s directive in one or other pretexts. And the government ministers often stand helpless in front of the medical college owners. This should not be allowed to happen. On a positive note, Dr Bhagawan Koirala has been appointed as the chairman of Nepal Medical Council, the government body responsible for overseeing and curbing malpractices in medical education sector. We wish him successful tenure and hope that he will take initiative, with the government, to address the legitimate demands of agitating medical students.