What a waste – Six years of hard work gone down the drain

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Graduates during a Fiji National University graduation. Picture: FILE

A graduate of the Fiji National University’s bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry claims many who completed the six-year program developed mental health issues, with one being so depressed she did self-harm after their credentials were not recognised and could not get them employed.

The graduate, who spoke to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity, claimed the FNU assured them the degree would be recognised but informed them it wasn’t, midway through their studies.

“My cohort was well into our third year of the program when we were told that it was not accredited in Fiji,” the graduate said.

“We were promised recognition at the end of the course and that was the whole reason we completed the program – we graduated last year in February.”

The graduate claimed they were told the Veterinary Surgeons Act was old and needed to be reviewed.

“We were assured that amendments would be made in no time but despite the legislation being reviewed and amended last year, nothing has been done about recognising our degree to date.

“We were devastated, it felt like six years of hard work, sweat and tears all went down the drain – it really took a toll on our mental health.

“I had a friend who did self-harm because of depression – it was really sad.

“Upon graduation I was really hoping to work at a small animal clinic, at a private practice or even the Agriculture Ministry but I couldn’t get a job there because our degree was not recognised.”

In response to queries from The Fiji Times, the Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Service (TSLS) said they began funding FNU’s Veterinary Science program in 2014.

TSLS also said 112 of students undertook the program under the National Toppers Scholarships (NTS) Scheme and another 112 under the FNU Higher Education Study Loans Scheme.

The TSLS said FNU gave students enrolled in the five-year Veterinary Science program the choice to downgrade their program to Bachelor of Animal Science as the initial program got phased out.

Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) clinic and shelter manager Shaneel Narayan said the organisation currently employs three FNU Vet Science graduates and previously had up to five graduates working as interns.

“However, FNU Vet Science graduates are currently not registered to work as veterinarians in Fiji as any veterinarian working in Fiji needs to be registrable under the Veterinary Surgeons Act,” he said.

“This means that SPCA continues to need to source qualified and experienced veterinarians who are registrable to practise in Fiji.

“We advertise locally and internationally through veterinary networks and recruitment is based on expertise and qualifications.

Many of our vets come on a short-term basis only and work as volunteers.

“Regardless of where a vet comes from, they need to meet the registration requirements. It is important to understand that SPCA in Fiji cannot afford to compete with salaries paid overseas and many of our local vets (trained overseas) tend to choose to leave the country or take up more lucrative administrative or academic positions.”

When quizzed by The Fiji Times about the issue, Agriculture Minister Vatimi Rayalu said, “it would have been fair if questions were directed to former minister Mahendra Reddy last year”.

Questions sent to FNU and the Fiji Higher Education Commission on Tuesday, February 14 remained unanswered when this edition went to press.

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