New institute of higher education:
Whole world open to those with good qualifications
Dr. Neville Fernando is a genius having treaded several areas and
then emerging victorious surmounting problems that came along the way in
his long career. He is a professionally qualified doctor of Western
Medicine. His stint at government service even did not last for more
than a year. He was disgusted and quit government service to set up his
own private practice at Panadura.
His practice flourished as time went by and became a popular medical
practitioner in the area. He practised for more than 20 years before
giving that up and entered active politics to serve the public.
Dr. Fernando was elected by popular vote as the Member of Parliament
for Panadura. He gave up politics in 1994, and ventured into business
and became a successful businessman. He owned the major shares of Asha
Central Hospital, a flagship hospital in Colombo. Later he sold his
shares at the Asha Central hospital at a big profit and quit hospital
business. "After I sold my hospital I was thinking of doing something
for the country. I thought the best was to set up an institute of higher
education. Then I found out that children who should have been in
universities are left out." he said.
The Sunday Observer had an exclusive interview with Dr. Neville
Fernando at his South Asian Institute of Technology and Management (SAITM)
at Malabe last week.
He said it was unfortunate and regrettable that students who study
hard and obtained high marks at the GCE Advance Level examination
couldn't enter university. They were left out because of inequities in
the education system. He said students who scored high marks from
Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Jaffna and Matara were left out and those from
backward areas with less marks gained admission to universities. "I was
thinking of the plight of my own children if they were in the same boat.
So I thought the best was to start an institution of higher education."
He said the investment to build the new campus was estimated to be
around Rs. 500 million. "But the cost escalated after we decided to
construct the Anatomy and Physiology block for the medical faculty." Dr.
Fernando stressed that there is a dearth of doctors in Sri Lanka and
elsewhere in the world. "Our medical students say that they won't find
employment in government service until 2010. But one does not have to
wait for jobs in the government sector. They should get into private
practice," he said.
He said the whole world was open to persons with a good
qualification. One does not have to think of a job here in Sri Lanka.
They can go to any part of the world and practise medicine or any other
profession for that matter "Sri Lankan medical students should change
their attitude. What I feel is there is sheer hatred and jealousy
towards other students. They only want to think about themselves but not
about others who had been unfortunate in not getting into the medical
Dr. Fernando said he will consider students who have done
exceptionally well in the GCE Advance Level Examination. Those with
London, Cambridge or Sri Lankan qualification will be admitted to the
new medical college at the South Asian Institute of Technology and
Management (SAITM). "We hope to get some foreign students from Nepal,
Maldives and Malaysia. The Maldivian Minister met me recently and we
discussed about the study courses available at our university. "The
South Asian Institute of Technology and Management is going to be an
international school and won't be confined to Sri Lankan students." He
said students who failed to gain admission to the medical college will
have a chance at the SAITM to pursue their medical education. But some
medical students have the temerity to tell students who failed to enter
the medical faculty to enter other faculties. "But they have no right to
say that because education is a fundamental right," he said.
"The money we are going to levy for the medical education includes
one year's internship in Russia. It is cheaper than courses abroad. We
will teach them to become patient-friendly and not to look down upon
others. We also hope to give scholarships to deserving students and
children of the armed forces."
The South Asian Institute of Technology and Management (SAITM) will
also conduct courses for Information Technology, Business Management,
Languages that include French, German, Japanese, Korean, English. The
Tourism and Hospitality Management course will also be conducted in
several languages. A modern computer laboratory has already been set up
at the SAITM. Several qualified academics on sabbatical leave from
leading universities will be attached to SAITM.
The Information and Technology and the Communications sections will
commence on May 2 and the Medical Faculty will commence on September 1,
with 300 students. All faculties of SAITM will be affiliated to Vulvar
Hampton university in England and the degree certificates will be issued
by the same university.
The Buckingham University too have signed an agreement with SAITM to
conduct MBA and MSc courses. SAITM is a specious building consisting of
5 floors and two lower ground floors in a 90,000 square foot area. The
building was constructed within seven months.
Dr. Fernando said that the first student to enrol for the languages
course came from a far away place in Kurunegala. 'He knew the importance
of the language course,' he said.