Mere months after it accepted the first batch of students in April this year, the Washington University of Barbados School of Medicine (WUB) is facing questions about its legitimacy, as 15 of the 80 foreign students have indicated a desire to leave.
This follows the circulation of a letter sent to the media earlier this week via email by someone purporting to be a representative of the student body.
The writer claimed that the students, who are said to be mainly from India, were mistreated, harassed and were given false promises before they embarked on the journey here to study medicine.
The list of grievances included inadequate classroom furniture and equipment, a lack of air-conditioning, improper ventilation, poor quality food, a lack of study materials and, unlike traditional universities, no proper campus, with WUB operating from the Hibiscus wing of the Casa Grande Hotel at Oldbury, St Philip.
But most damning is a video believed to have been filmed by a student with a mobile phone, in which the university’s Dean Dr Ram Prasad Upreti expressed disdain for the campus.
In an emotional speech during which he received raucous applause, and in which he threatened to call Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, the unions, the media and even the police to intervene, Upreti all but dismissed WUB as a legitimate medical school.
“There are no books in the library, this is university? There is no drinking water, this is university? The students are kept like in a prison, this is university? No,” he said in the clearly edited video posted on August 2, 2017 under the heading, Dean Exposes Fake University.
“All of our faculty may leave this place. No salary is given to the faculty, they are crying. No salary is given to the staff, they are crying . . . . What the hell? This is not a university,” he continued, before suggesting he was prepared to quit but planned to stay on to fight for the students.
In defending the school Director Deoraj Dalchand told Barbados TODAY the first batch of students to arrive here was originally scheduled to be enrolled at a similar facility in Guyana but had to be redirected because the medical board in India was late in providing the necessary documents to the Guyana school.
In any event, Dalchand said, the issues raised by the students were being addressed.
“It was done in a relative short time space so as to avoid any delays with their studying. Our main concern is that the students get what they need so we went ahead and started putting things in place, but some things took a little bit longer to get sorted out.
“[But] most, if not all of the complaints have been resolved, but those that haven’t been, we are working on them. I know they had concerns about the hospitals attached to the school, but the first hospital that we will need for any clinical studies will be in 2019. That is being done but not open,” he explained.
He said the medical school continued to hold discussions with the students and a timeline had been set to resolve the problems.
“Some of the students, 18 or 19 of them, I’m not sure, were very interested in transferring from out the school and I told them . . . ‘is it a concern that you want addressed so that you don’t move?’ They said ‘no’. They just wanted to leave and it seems as though they have some grievances. If it is associated with the school, I don’t know what exactly the grievances are. None of the students has come forward,” Delchand stated, adding that the university held no hard feelings against those who chose to leave.
“We at WUB are committed to providing a high quality of education, to ensuring that the environment for the students is in a manner that is in keeping with our goals and our mission and we will continue to do that.
Only last week we had the health inspectorate pay us a visit and they were very happy with what they saw. We were praised for what we have actually been doing. They actually pointed out a few things that we needed to be doing and we quickly dealt with it,” he added, while stressing that the school had all the necessary documents and its application for accreditation was before the Barbados Accreditation Council (BAC).
An official source has confirmed to Barbados TODAY that the BAC has received the documents, but stressed there were no guarantees that WUB would be accredited.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones has refused to comment on the development.