While crusader Dr Govinda KC is staging his 17th hunger strike demanding reforms in the medical education sector, a probe report into the medical colleges accused of overcharging fees, conducted by the National Vigilance Centre, has shown that nearly Rs 3 billion additional fees was charged from medical students under various arbitrary headings.
The report revealed that 12 medical colleges across the country have collected an extra Rs 2.85 billion additional fees from the medical students in total between 2015 and 2018. It has been learnt that a student was charged an extra amount ranging from Rs 200,000 to 2.54 million annually.
Medical colleges took the money from students under 24 different arbitrary headings, including admission, registration, year promotion, affiliation, institutional, laboratory and lab information, among others, which is illegal as per the Medical Education Law. The law states that the tuition fees determined by the government cover all the components of fess liable to a student.
Pokhara-based Gandaki Medical College Teaching Hospital topped the list by charging the highest Rs 519.82 million additional fees from its students between 2015 and 2018.
The government had set Rs 3.5 million fee for MBBS students inside the Kathmandu valley for the academic year 2016-17 and Rs 3.85 million for outside the valley. For the academic years 2017-18 and 19, the government increased the fees to Rs 3.85 million for inside the valley and Rs 4.24 million for outside the valley. However, as for the current academic year 2019- 20, the previous fee was slightly adjusted with regard to the rate of inflation.
Medical students have been protesting at Maitighar Mandala as well as in Chitwan demanding the government to take action against such colleges and return the additional fees. After much pressure from the students, Minister for Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa on November 9 asked the colleges to return the additional fees within 15 days. It is, however, unclear if the colleges will abide by the instruction.
Meanwhile, organizing a press conference on Monday morning, the Minister for Education, Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel issued the 15-day ultimatum to the medical college owners to address the demands of the medical college students. He warned, “The government will register a case against them if they fail to address concerns of the student.