By: Qambar Malik Baloch
Two students of Bolan Medical College (BMC) Younis Ellahi and Farhad Karim have gone on hunger strike unto death since 13 August 2018, accusing the faculty of BMC of practicing racism and discrimination against students that has resulted in the loss of a whole academic year of the said students and 16 others who were unfairly failed in their final year viva exams.
This is not the only time students from an educational institution have raised concerns about unfair treatment, there is a trail of incidents from Pakistan in general and Balochistan in particular where students have fallen victim to such discriminative and humiliating treatment from the authorities in universities leaving unforgettable psychological and physical repercussions on their lives and careers.
The allegations put forth by the students of BMC point out to an obnoxious and unchecked system of prejudice running deep in nearly all educational institutions in Balochistan,which on the face of it has elements of decay and instability,though in the process, it is compromising the future of many innocent students compelling them to resort to such extreme measures of starving their bodies for justice.
Unfortunately, a large number of professionals employed in various educational institutions lack the proper training of upholding ethics of practicing impartiality and diligence eventually end up doing anything but what their job role requires of them. This coupled with the absence of performance appraisal, and accountability regarding such civil matters makes discrimination and favouritism inevitable.
One of the reasons that contribute in the continuation of such destructive practices in university and colleges is the lack of student unions in their true nature and character. Althoughthe Article 17(a) of the constitutionof Pakistan permits the formation of association and unions in educational institutions, its absence has allowed the faculty and administration go unchecked. In countries progressing in education, the student unions work in cooperation with the university or college administration to ensure the rights of students are protected and no student fall victim to a teacher’s personal grudge or unfair treatment. These student unions educate the fellow students about their rights and about the appropriate mediums to consult when faced with such a situation. To allow the formation of student unions in educational institutions, the resolution passed to revive the student unions by the Senate of Pakistan in 2017 should be implemented in its true spirit.
Another unfortunate reason is the examination system as practiced in BMC, which is quite out-dated and lacks transparency. An examination system compatible with the contemporary examination systems as practiced in most of the countries in the world should be introduced. Students if request should be provided with the criterion of exam marking, and viva exams must be taped or video recorded and in exceptional cases, a second assessor to ensure impartiality should review the recordings. Students should also be entitled to appeal against the final examination results that should be reviewed by an assessment board.
Given the situation, there comes a moral and professional responsibility on the administration and faculty of BMC to reach out to the representatives of Young Doctors Association (YDA) championing the cause of students to end the hunger strike of Younis Ellahi and Farhad Karim. The students should file a formal complaint against the accused teacher with appropriate evidences while the college authorities should investigate into this matter and also assure the students of resolving this matter in a formal way through the established channels by reviewing the results of the 18 students and re-conducting the viva exams.
The student representatives playing their part should prepare a detailed proposal outlining all the major issues facing the students with practical suggestions. In order to safeguard the future of already deprived students of Balochistan, and to end the further victimization of students, the public representatives in legislative bodies should be approached to use their available means and powers to pass legislations introducing a new transparent examination system in the colleges and universities of Balochistan. Students and teachers should both be educated about these legislations and at the same time appropriate measures should be taken so that no student is robbed off of his/her dignity and future.
The writer is a UK based Baloch socio-political activist who hails from Panjgur, Balochistan. He was the Ex chairperson of Baloch Students Action Committee, BUITEMS and Baloch Students and Youth Association UK. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org