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'We have lost 10 months of our lives'

By NEETA KOLHATKAR
Last updated on: November 02, 2022 04:46 IST
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'You can't tell a student who is already in a medical course to give the entrance exam all over again.'

IMAGE: Afsha Khan. Photograph: Neeta Kolhatkar

Afsha Khan, 20, was among the 20,000 students studying in the Ukraine before the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.

A student at the Zaporizhzhia State Medical University, Afsha left Ukraine a few days before war broke out.

Afsha has now sought admission at a university in the republic of Georgia. But she must wait for tensions in Ukraine to subside before she can access her marksheets at the Zaporizhzye State Medical University.

The government had promised to help medical students from the Ukraine after they were evacuated from that war-torn country, but that has not happened.

"We wrote to the Medical Council of India saying give exams on our MBBS course because the syllabus is the same worldwide. The human body is the same, we study the same thing. If I've got 90 percent, then we are very much eligible. For them it is only NEET, else you are good for nothing," Afsha tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Neeta Kolhatkar.

 

Since you landed in India, what is the status regarding your academics?

I landed in India on February 23, and since then, for a month there were no lectures or anything, due to the war situation.

Then from March 30, we had online classes since we were in the middle of our semester.

So, till June we had these online classes. But these were only regarding important subjects and the Ukrainian language.

These were two hours per class, but if there were alarms (about an impending Russian missile strike), then our teachers would go and we had to wait till they returned.

The schedule went haywire because though our lectures were from 8 am to 10 am, if in between the lecturer would go, then for 40 minutes, nothing would happen.

That is the duration for one alarm. Then the remaining duration of the lecture is completed, by which time the second lecture is rescheduled.

So from 8 am to 7 pm, our entire day was dedicated to online lectures. This was my daily schedule.

Then in June we gave our online exams. I did well, but there were no practicals.

They gave average marks from orals for practicals and we had a MCQ (multiple choice questions kind of portal to answer the MCQs.

We never had exams like these before, but this is war time, so there are many things that did not exist previously.

We gave our exams and later asked do they have any backup plans for us, like giving us a transfer to another university. What should we do? In July they gave us our results and asked us to take a transfer to another university. This means we have to search for ourselves.

IMAGE: Medical students back from Ukraine. Photograph: Kind courtesy Operation Ganga/Twitter

Were they committing to getting you the admissions? What was the deal?

They said we could continue with online education because now their country could not afford to run medical courses offline.

They were not willing to help me or other students with transfer to another university or country.

How have you coped through this unsure time? What choices do you have now, considering that affordability is also important? Do you lose a year?

We had an option for a Schengen zone since all Schengen countries said they would help us get admissions. But the Schengen zone is extremely expensive. Even Poland, Hungary and other such countries, the admission cost was going up to ₹90 lakhs, ₹1 crore for the rest of the course, which entails the remaining five years.

Out of the six year course, I have completed one-and-a-half years, but since this semester was online, none of the universities are recognising it and we have lost this entire year.

So I began to explore other countries -- Georgia, and Russia, but I can't go here.

I read more about Georgia universities and they too were open to taking us, Indian students.

I applied to three universities there and I got into all three.

I finalised one university, but now I am faced with a huge problem.

My university (the Zaporizhzhia State Medical University in Ukraine) is not ready to give me my transcript.

I am a temporary resident in Ukraine, so they are asking me to come over there in person, discard this TR (temporary residency by returning the papers and only then will I get my marks transcript.

I requested they allow me to do it online, but they have insisted I go there.

Finally, the Medical Council of Ukraine agreed to let me give the power of attorney to someone else who can come on my behalf and collect the transcript.

I have now given a consultant the TR. I don't know when he can go over, hand over my TR and collect my transcript.

Georgia meanwhile has given admission based on my marks on the electronic portal.

They are ready to give me admission based on these marks, but again, that is only for six months.

They are giving me confirmed admissions, but with a deadline of six months.

So what's your consultant saying?

He is ready, but he can go only when the situation is calm.

300 students have given him the power of attorney so he will have to go.

The only problem is the deadline. If he can't get it )the marks transcript) within the time frame set by the university in Georgia, I don't know where I stand.

IMAGE: Indian students at a train station in Zahony, Hungary, March 3, 2022, after fleeing Ukraine. Photograph: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Has the Indian government intervened to help? What is the Medical Council of India's response?

Initially, the government told us they will give us admission in India, but the Medical Council of India said if they gave admissions to Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs), then it would be unfair for those appearing for NEET and other exams.

We have cracked NEET, that is why we got admission at a medical university. We went to Ukraine only because we didn't want to pay capitation fees.

Many students here pay and get a management seat. We have got more marks, but we couldn't get a government seat and we don't pay (a capitation fee) that's why we left to study abroad.

Now they are asking us to appear for NEET again, go through the old stress and trauma.

NEET is of 720 marks. We are from the open category.

So we FMGs wrote to the MCI saying give exams on our MBBS course because the syllabus is the same worldwide.

The human body is the same, we study the same thing. If I've got 90 percent, then we are very much eligible.

For them it is only NEET, else you are good for nothing.

They kept dilly-dallying, saying 15 days more, and now we have lost 10 months of our lives.

Our course is of six years, then we do specialisation. When will we finish studying? When will we start earning? When will we become professional practitioners?

I called MCI, but they don't answer their phones. After 100 e-mails they replied to one.

They told me, I have two options: Either take a transfer (to another university abroad) or stay back in India and give NEET again.

You can't tell a student who is already in a medical course to give the entrance exam all over again. What is wrong with them?

I gave up on the government and decided to pursue my options on my own.

Even regarding the transcripts, when we requested the government to intervene, they asked us to write an e-mail and state that the university is not helping.

Our university wants to help, but they are not in a situation to do anything.

There is a war in that country and our government needs to understand this.

They (the Zaporizhzhia State Medical University) are ready to issue the transcripts, and ready to help because we have cleared the exams and semesters, only thing is, we cannot go over to Ukraine. We won't write an e-mail against our university.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

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NEETA KOLHATKAR