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Balochistan: Exclusive interview of Dr Shan Baloch
Monday, February 12th, 2018 08:10 pm
The students of different medical colleges in Balochistan have been protesting against Higher Education Commission (HEC) for what they describe as ‘irregularities’ in the entry test of Bolan Medical College (BMC). They allege that the HEC invigilators allowed ‘unprecedented level of cheating’ during the exam. The failed candidates are demanding that the result of this test should be cancelled and the test should be conducted again by a different independent and responsible organisation.
The successful students, however, say that ‘re-examination’ will be regarded as injustice with them. They warned that in case of cancellation of the results they and their families will protest against any such decision.
Balochwarna News spoke with Dr Shan Baloch the ex-president of the Baloch Student Action Committee BMC Unit about the problems of students in Balochistan and the background of this ongoing protest.
BW News: What is the background of this protest and why are these students protesting?
Dr Shan Baloch: On 4 February the Higher Education Commission has conducted entry test for Bolan Medical College (BMC). To secure a seat in BMC 4772 candidates of different medical colleges from Jahalawan, Makuran and Loralai took part in this test. The entry tests were previously conducted by a non-government organisation National Testing Service (NTS) but this time with intervention and decision of the court the responsibility of conducting this test has was given to the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The HEC promised to conduct the test without any additional fee.
So, on February 4, HEC formally conducted the test at Balochistan University. This time there have been allegations of many irregularities during the test. Students were seen openly cheating, verbally asking and telling answers to each other; students also openly used their mobile phones to get outside help.
BW News: Was there any objection at the time when the test was taking place and what was the response of administration of HEC?
Dr Shan Baloch: Many students objected but the invigilators ignored the students’ protest and continued the test. The aim of this protest and Sit-in [at Quetta Press Club] is that there should be an independent investigation into the students’ complaints about cheating and other irregularities.
After the test the students’ immediately expressed their dissatisfaction with the administration of HEC and the way the test was conducted. They have contacted us and started their protest against which continues as we speak.
BW News: Why are these students protesting against Higher Education Commission?
Dr Shan Baloch: The protest is against HEC because it is the first time that there have been irregularities in the entry test of medical colleges’ students. There is proof of what happened. Based on the evidence an investigation committee headed by Deputy Commissioner was formed to look into this matter. The committee’s investigation also confirmed irregularities and mismanagement.
BW News: What are the demands of the students at the sit-in protest?
Dr Shan Baloch: The protesting students are demanding for the cancellation of test results and asking for a re-examination of all students by an independent institution.
BW News: We heard that you submitted an appeal to High Court of Balochistan. What do you expect from the Court?
Dr Shan Baloch: Yes, we have submitted an appeal to the High Court and we hope justice will be delivered. However, we cannot say anything before the Court’s decision. We don’t know whether the Court will decide in favour of students or not because HEC also conducted the test after the Court’s decision.
BW News: Has anyone from the government visited the protest and tried to negotiate with students?
Dr Shan Baloch: The Chief Minister and the Deputy Commissioner visited the protest camp and promised that the results will be withheld until the enquiry report. But the results were announced despite CM’s assurance. It has been seven days that the students of different colleges from Balochistan are sitting on the protest. They are adamant to continue the protest until their demands are accepted.
BW News: There are also accusations that the invigilators help some students. Is it true?
Dr Shan Baloch: Yes, it is true that invigilators misused their power and supported influential students. In fact, we heard that they searched answers on Google to support their favourite students.
BW News: What are the main problems of students in Balochistan?
Dr Shan Baloch: One of the main issues of students in Balochistan is lack of educational institutes. There are very few institutes. The existing colleges and schools lack expert teachers. The people in Balochistan are very poor; they cannot go abroad for quality education that is why after matriculation most students go to Quetta – the capital of Balochistan – for higher education. But, because of expensive fees, most students cannot continue their studies. We think it is a pre-planned conspiracy to keep the people of Balochistan backward and illiterate.
BW News: What should the government do to address these issues?
Dr Shan Baloch: To address the difficulties of students in Balochistan the government should establish educational institutes in every district. Hardworking, competent and dedicated teachers should be posted in educational institutes in Balochistan. There should also be engineering universities. The engineering department should be strengthened in Balochistan. At present technical education in Balochistan is non-existence that is why the government should pay special attention to address these issues.
BW News: Is there any organisation in Balochistan that works solely to resolve the issue of students?
Dr Shan Baloch: Unfortunately, the students’ organisations here are affiliated with political parties – one can say they are the pocket organisation of political parties. They need permission from their political party to speak about the issues concerning students in Balochistan. If the issue is in favour of a political party they will speak otherwise they will not. I want to make it clear that the Baloch Student Action Committee is the only student organisation that speaks about and raises the issue of Balochistan’s students without any third party influence. Hence, we are supporting the protest of students of medical colleges and trying to resolve this issue.