New Dehli: Sooraj Kumar a medical student has returned from Ukraine to his village of Babuapur in the central Indian state of Uttar Pradesh with his family.
The 26-year-old was one of around 18,000 Indian students studying medicine in Ukraine evacuated as the war broke out. Kumar studied medicine in Uzhhorod for six years and would have graduated in three months.
Kumar now faces an unclear future because he cannot complete his education or gain admission to Indian colleges.
For thousands of young Indians, the goal of becoming a doctor begins in tiny towns and villages. However, the number of applicants has always significantly outweighed the number of positions available at low-cost government-run colleges. Private medical schools are only public to those who can afford exorbitant tuition.
In 2021, approximately 1.5 million students took qualifying exams for government colleges, but only about 6% got admitted.
Per the Public Health Foundation of India, only one out of every eleven hopefuls got admitted to medical schools in 2014. Last year, the figure had risen to one in every 19 applicants.
“So you increased the number of persons wanting admission, but the number of available seats did not grow proportionally. As a result, many students explore alternative options,” K. Srinath Reddy, the foundation’s president, states.
Kumar, a farmer’s son, was training to become the village’s first doctor, not only in his family.
Because he could not gain admission to a government college, he decided to travel to Ukraine, which was the most cost-effective alternative.
“In a private Indian medical institution, I would have had to spend over $150,000, but in Ukraine, the entire six-year course cost me roughly $30,000. [However], I had to take out a large loan, and my father had to sell some of our ancestral lands,” Kumar stated.
There is one final hurdle for medical students with a foreign degree – clearing a qualifying exam to practice in India.
“The success rate in these exams has been pretty low,” Dr. Reddy explains. “The pass rate was only 19 percent between 2015 and 2018. It increased to 25% in 2019 but dropped to 16% “by 2020.”
He claimed that the international educational system “didn’t effectively prepare” pupils for Indian medical practices.
As students return from Ukraine, there is uncertainty now, leaving their studies in the middle. “I’m concerned because, without a degree, I won’t be able to take the qualifying examination in India. How do I fill out an application if I don’t have a degree?” Kumar bemoans.
Swati Sagarika Sabat, a 22-year-old medical student, is still coming to grips with this fact. She’s back home in Kendrapara, attempting to learn medicine via a Zoom class provided by her Ukrainian university.
“We are not meeting with instructors or patients. How can someone learn to conduct surgery online? We can’t learn unless we acquire some hands-on experience,” Ms. Sabat explains.
Some argue that the government should enable Ukrainian students to study in local medical schools. The government has stated that it is looking into their situation.
However, it is critical to improving India’s existing infrastructure so that students have more options in the nation.
The number of medical seats in Indian institutions has increased from roughly 52,000 to nearly 89,000 in the last seven years. It is a significant increase, yet it is still insufficient. India needs additional medical experts, with one doctor for every 1,500 people.
The government intends to build hospitals in districts, particularly in rural areas. Medical colleges would be attached to the improved district hospitals.
“You are genuinely making a culture shift by employing district hospitals as a training site. You are making them far more responsive to community concerns,” Dr. Reddy comments — The BBC.