By: Sahil Reki
During late July 2019, Quetta witnessed protests by medical students. They camped on the road, outside Quetta Press Club and pledged to take classes in the camp until their demands were not met. Weeks after the protests, the Quetta Press club still echoes with some voices resembling that of a lecture delivered in a teacher-student-bound class in a college. This voice is of a senior medical student, Sabiha, who has volunteered to teach medical students in their protest camp against delay in the classes by Bolan Medical College.
The protesting camp is a witness to the non-issuance of merit list of the students who have taken their written test, which in return, has caused delay in classes, as the students explain.
In 2018, government of Balochistan announced to open three medical colleges to facilitate the students wishing to get enrolled in medical colleges, but had to face constraints in reaching the capital. This led to the establishment of colleges at Khuzdar, Loralai, and Turbat. However, the recent protest was the first demonstration to highlight the administrative drawbacks before the future doctors could start their ambitious journey.
The Bolan Medical College, established in 1972 during the tenure of Atta Ullah Mengal as chief Minister of province, has produced more or less 2900 graduates according to the College Administration. Bolan University of Health and Medical Sciences was conceived in 2004. However, it could not be materialized until BUMHS Act 2017 was passed by the Balochistan Provincial Assembly on 11th December 2017. The college was seen a milestone achievement on part of government of Balochistan. However, the present-day administrative shortcomings have been a sorry tale. College’s meritocracy, on the one hand, has often been questioned, and the current delay in classes and early issuance of merit list, on the other hand, has fanned the doubt of the students about meritocracy of the college.
“We, the seniors,” Sabiha, the volunteer teacher told Balochistan Review, ‘‘decided to take classes in the protesting camp in order to save and help the newcomers to catch up with their time being wasted due to delay in their classes.’’ Sabiha voluntarily started teaching the novices. ‘‘It was need of the hour to save the time of the students.’’
“We never wanted to protest and arrange classes on roads. The college delayed in every process which compelled the students to raise voice against their unjust behaviour. The classes of Balochistan University Health and Medical Sciences (BUHMS) started on 17th of June, but they still wait. Such delay indicates that there is need for reforms in educational and health institutions of Balochistan, for the future of students seems at stake,” shares Roshan Khan with Balochistan Review, a first year MBBS student at medical college Khuzdar and one of the protesters.
‘‘BUHMS management announced admission for session 2019/20 in December instead of August 2018,’’ Abdul Wahab, a first year student at college loralai told Balochistan Review, ‘’We passed our test and yet kept in waiting for two months for out Viva to take place,’’ Abdul Wahab expresses his concern over the announcement made by BUHMS which has released the entry list only and stopped the release of the lists of other three colleges which, BUHMS claims, are not registered with Pakistan Dental and Medical Council (PMDC).
However, the officials of the college claim that the delay in showing in merit list was caused by the management’s decision computerise the data to facilitate the students. According to the officials, students could first search their names in passing and failing lists after it could request to get the merit list.
“We have allocated 1.5 billion rupees for establishing 3 new medical Colleges in Balochistan. Classes have been resumed in medical colleges. We will do our best to facilitate our students. Balochistan government is playing a vital role to change education and health department along with others in Province. Completion of infrastructure and other documentation for registration of colleges will complete soon. The Balochistan government has contacted with PMDC and discussed registration issue with concerned officials,” Liaquat Shahwani, Balochistan Government Spokesman told Balochistan Review. Mr. Shahwani is of the view that the colleges will help in covering the dearth of Doctors and other specialists in medication field of the province.
According to Government of health department Balochistan, the new project of 3 new medical Colleges costs more than 15 billion rupees and the department shall take all out necessary steps to overcome shortcomings within 6 months and will get these medical colleges recognized from Pakistan Medical and Dental Council by end of the year.
The Balochistan government’s timely response to resolve the issues of medical college students is a welcome move, nevertheless, the quality of education and overall educational landscape remains at crossroads. Intermittent protests might resolve the issues, but such protests, on the other hand, create a time vacuum which takes much time to be filled in.