The unheard cry of Kelaniya University’s Speech and Language graduates
The journey to becoming a graduate is certainly not easy in a country like Sri Lanka. If you pass the GCE Advanced Level exam with a high Z-score, you can pursue a degree at a State University. But there are also occasions where even a high Z-score cannot guarantee admission to the programme of your choice due to the limited number of scholarships available.
The secondary and often less desired option is to pursue a degree from a private university, which of course is costly.
Therefore a degree from a State university is still in high demand in Sri Lanka. Despite its numerous benefits, it is unfortunate that it takes several extra years to complete a three-year degree programme at a State university in Sri Lanka.
"Recent graduates of the sixth batch of Speech and Hearing Science at the Faculty of Medicine of the Kelaniya University are harassed by the University’s long-term delays, which has caused them further difficulties in getting themselves registered as Speech Therapists with the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC)"
Recent graduates of the sixth batch of Speech and Hearing Science at the Faculty of Medicine of the Kelaniya University are harassed by the University’s long-term delays, which has caused them further difficulties in getting themselves registered as Speech Therapists with the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC).
The University of Kelaniya held its first-ever virtual convocation last Friday (December 11) marking the 115th General Convocation of the University.
However, it was not a happy moment for all graduates. The sixth batch of the Speech and Hearing Science programme had completed their degree programme by end of 2018 and the University administration had failed to hold Convocation for this group for over two and a half years.
The University had run advertisements that the administration took measures to hold a virtual convocation due to restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Speech and Hearing Science graduates who completed their programme before two-and-a-half years now complain of wasting their time and energy without even permission to register as professional Speech Therapists in the country.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror ‘Insight’ the graduates of the Speech and Hearing Science at the Kelaniya University share their grievances.
Denied registration at SLMC
As per the University website, this degree program is the first University-approved professional training programme leading to a BSc Degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences. The students of the programme will be specialising in Speech and Language Therapy or in Audiology.
The University has thus far completed the programme for eight batches, but the last three batches are still unable to obtain registration with the SLMC.
“To obtain the SLMC registration we need the degree certificate. But for two and a half years now we have been waiting for the University to issue our certification. Although we had the convocation last week, we still don’t know, when can get the certificate,” concerned graduates of Speech and Hearing Science told Daily Mirror.
As an emerging profession in the country, there is a lack of awareness among the public about Speech and Language Therapists. In this backdrop, the recent graduates raised their concerns over the establishment of their career.
"As per the University website, this degree program is the first University-approved professional training programme leading to a BSc Degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences. The students of the programme will be specialising in Speech and Language Therapy or in Audiology"
“The profession is still evolving and even in the clinical settings, new therapists have to face untold difficulties,” one student informed Daily Mirror.
The graduates added that without SLMC registration they could not practise as professional speech therapists or pathologists in the country.
“Batches consist of nearly 50 to 60 students which is comparatively a small batch within the medical faculty. As the sixth batch we completed the programme in 2018 and wasted over two and a half years without being able to register ourselves as professionals in the field,” they said.
The duration of the programme is four years with three terms in each year and the students who passed GCE Advance Level from Science and Arts streams with a higher level of Z-scores are qualified to follow this degree programme. Graduates of the sixth batch conducted observations from the first year and in the final year, they completed their research project.
"To obtain the SLMC registration we need the degree certificate. But for two and a half years now we have been waiting for the University to issue our certification. Although we had the convocation last week, we still don’t know, when can get the certificate"
When the Daily Mirror questioned as to how they had conducted clinical practices after 2018 until the convocation, the students said that the University had provided an academic transcript for private clinical trials.
“But we cannot use the transcript to obtain the SLMC registration,” a graduand said.
“We tried to obtain the registration using the transcript but the SLMC administration asked us to present the degree certificate. With the present situation, although the Kelaniya University had its convocation, we still didn’t receive the degree certificate,” he said
He added that the University authorities had displayed no concern when they attempted to discuss the issue.
The undergraduates of the sixth batch noted that several attempts to inform the department about their plight were in vain.
They also said, when contacted, the Department administration, a non-academic staff member informed them that the degree certificate could be obtained in March 2021, which the students believe is an attempt to pacify them, with no real assurance that their problems would be addressed.
After virtual convocation, more virtual promises
Daily Mirror Insight observed that a huge social media campaign was led against the recent virtual convocation held by the Kelaniya University. Many Facebook Pages had shared posts against online graduation.
The University administration decided to remove the video of the online convocation from social media platforms and by last Friday evening, the administration had shared a post noting that each faculty would have another ceremony after the COVID-19 situation improves in the country.
The post which the university had shared on their page as follows.
“Graduands awarded their degrees at the 115th Convocation of the University of Kelaniya are hereby informed that it was held virtually to enable issuance of degree certificates for purposes of employment. Another ceremony will be held in each Faculty/ Institute after the COVID-19 situation had improved, for graduands who wish to receive their degree certificates and medals in person. Dates and venues will be notified later”
However, this particular message does not provide a solution to the graduates of the sixth batch of the Speech and Hearing Science at the Medical Faculty of Kelaniya University.
An emerging profession
The Speech and Language Therapists have to perform in different work settings in Sri Lanka. The profession is still an emerging one and in many countries, this is considered as a profession in the education system as well.
Sharing their views, the undergraduates of the sixth batch said however that the only schools centred in Colombo had Speech and Language Therapists in the school system, highlighting that this profession has to be expanded especially to the primary schools in rural areas.
“The profession still shows a lack of awareness and distribution of the clinicians in the rural areas and there were a lot of job opportunities within the community. At present, the Government mainly recruits clinicians in the healthcare sector only, but this profession is also considered as a profession in the education system,” the team of graduates said.