Late Dr. Upendra Devkota
I have a long association with the British Council. The British Government wanted to help us set up Neurosurgery in Nepal and under the Technical Cooperation Scheme of the British Council, I landed in Glasgow on the 1st of August 1983 to start my training.
The British Council sponsored the entire training program but I had to pass an English test first. Flunking the test was not an option because my job was already fixed there.
In those days the Council sponsored the training of most of the doctors who wanted to go to Britain for specialization. Those who returned became leaders in their fields. This continues to be an enormous achievement in the health sector.
In 1989, after completing the training, I met the Medical Director of the British Council, he forecasted and said, “Well it has happened to many British Council scholars from developing countries who do well. They go back to their countries and perform well in their respective fields. Suddenly they attract the Government’s attention and quite a few of them have been asked to become Ministers in their countries. I hope that does happen to you.”
He was right. I did very well in neurosurgery and set up the department in Nepal. Many years later I was appointed Minister of Health.
Britain has got a lot of strength in terms of human resource training and that strength was very well tapped by the British Council. That contribution was perhaps ,singularly, the most important contribution that the British Council has made. It is like giving somebody a fishing hook and teaching them the skills to fish. That was what the British Council did in the past. Those were impressive times: the golden era of the British Council.
I think the British Council should revert to its old role of concentrating on training of human resource for developing countries, as they did in my time. They helped train hundreds and hundreds of people like me around the world. Another benefit was the opportunity to establish good person-to-person contacts. We came in contact with training technocrats, bureaucrats and people from various walks of life. I truly believe the British Council meant a lot in those days and it still does a lot at present.
Having said that, I must congratulate the British Council for its wonderful 60 years as it has touched many people’s hearts and lives. I, myself, owe my training to the British Council, and through me, many Nepali have received neurosurgical services in this country. They indirectly owe a lot to the British Council. Here’s wishing you success in your mission. All the best.