Jihad Aslam – a student of the English Department of the 2015-16 academic session at Dhaka College – was scheduled to complete his honours courses in 2019, but instead, he has lost two years of his life to session jams.
He is now waiting for his honours final year exams to conclude. Jihad's situation is in sharp contrast with that his friends who study at Dhaka University, as they are currently preparing for their masters examinations.
Jihad's college is an affiliated institution, and he blames Dhaka University for his predicament. "It took me two additional years to complete my honours. The university killed valuable years of my life and it has also affected me financially," Jihad told The Business Standard.
Like him, around 2.5 lakh students who chose to study at seven colleges affiliated with Dhaka University continue to suffer from session jams and other issues, which are seriously hampering their academic career.
These students are in desperate need of a timely publication of error-free results, examinations held on time, fair evaluation of exam papers, publication of academic calendars, and a designated administrative building at the Dhaka University campus, to name a few priorities.
However, both the education ministry and Dhaka University have yet to take any concrete steps towards resolving the problems faced by the seven colleges, and ensure quality education at these institutions, sources have said.
On Wednesday, students of the seven affiliated colleges staged a demonstration by blocking the Nilkhet intersection in Dhaka, protesting the postponement of all ongoing examinations. This, however, is not the first time they have taken to the streets.
These students have held demonstrations seven times since July 2017, demanding a solution to issues hampering smooth academic activities at their institutions. It was in the same year that these colleges were brought under Dhaka University.
And in that very year, Siddiqur Rahman – a student of Government Titumir College – lost his eyes in police action amid a students' movement seeking an announcement of exam dates.
The seven affiliated colleges are – Dhaka College, Eden Women's College, Government Shaheed Suhrawardy College, Kabi Nazrul Government College, Begum Badrunnesa Government Women's College, Government Bangla College and Government Titumir College.
Commenting on the issue, Prof Syed Golam Faruk, Director General, Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, said, "The education ministry's project to enhance the quality of education at the seven colleges is still at the discussion stage.
"The ministry is yet to prepare any document in this regard."
Meanwhile, former coordinator of these colleges and Dhaka College Principal Prof IK Selim Ullah Khandaker said, "It is true that these colleges have been suffering from a shortage of teachers, accommodation, library, laboratory and other infrastructure for a long time.
"We have applied to the ministry concerned several times to take up a project for developing the academic activities of these seven colleges, but we are yet to get any results."
Noted educationist and former Professor of Dhaka University's History Department Dr Syed Anwar Husain said these colleges were facing severe mismanagement. He also blamed the authorities involved with running the colleges, and raised questions about their capabilities.
"The seven colleges became affiliated with Dhaka University without any prior evaluation. It was a political decision, but not a wise one. Even the university was not prepared to take on the responsibilities for such a large number of students," Dr Syed Anwar Husain said.
Adding that such never-ending problems could not be resolved in a short timeframe and in a simple way, he said, "The education ministry must meet with the country's educationists and consult them on these issues. Otherwise, this chaos will continue."
Since taking charge of seven colleges, the Dhaka University authorities have been facing a shortage of manpower in carrying out administrative and exam related activities.
According to officials of the university, the institution needs at least 250 officers and employees to provide smooth and uninterrupted services to the students of the seven colleges. However, the university currently has 50 people on its staff.
Last year, the university applied to the University Grants Commission asking for 240 new positions to be created, but received approval for only 30. The institution has been conducting its activities in only four rooms, whereas at least a whole building is required for the purpose.
On condition of anonymity, a university official said Dhaka University could not avoid responsibility for the ongoing crisis related to the seven colleges, as there had been no visible initiative by the institution on resolving the issues.
Responding to a query, Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman said the administration was working to ensure smooth academic activities of the seven affiliated colleges. He said the present crisis would gradually come to an end.
But another university official, wishing to remain anonymous, pointed out that the shortage of space, which was detrimental to conducting smooth administrative activities for the seven colleges, could only be resolved by constructing a separate building.