Bahar Chowdhury and Akbar Hossain enrolled in Bachelor of Social Science (BSS) at Dhaka University (DU) and Dhaka College respectively in the 2012-13 session.
Bahar completed MSS in December 2018 and now works at a reputed private organisation. Akbar, on the other hand, is yet to complete MSS and does not even know when the final examination will be finished.
"Most of my friends at DU, private universities and National University are employed by now but I am yet to complete my study, which makes me worried about my future," Akbar said.
The time gap in completing a degree at DU and Dhaka College is an example of the prevailing condition at six other colleges affiliated with DU in 2017. Thousands of students in the seven colleges are suffering acutely allegedly because of the negligence of DU, college authorities and education ministry.
According to DU sources, there are about 2.5 lakh students at the seven colleges – 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.
Unfortunately, BA (Pass) students in the 2012-13 session are still waiting for the final examination. The education ministry is yet to take any initiative to ensure quality higher education and infrastructure and overall development of the seven colleges.
Professor Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told The Business Standard (TBS) that the education ministry's project to enhance education quality of seven colleges was still at discussion stage.
"The ministry did not prepare any document in this regard," he added.
Noted educationist and former Professor of Dhaka University's History Department Syed Anwar Husain told TBS that the seven colleges became affiliated with DU based on political consideration. The university had no preparation to take the responsibilities of such a large number of students.
"Indeed, it was not a wise decision. The government decided to hand over the colleges to DU without consulting either the university or educationists. That is why chaos prevails every moment," he added.
Recent result disaster
In the 2018-19 session, the students of seven colleges faced a result-disaster in the final year. Only one out of 100 students of the English Department at Kabi Nazrul Government College and two out of 98 students of Government Shaheed Suhrawardy College passed the exams.
The results of other sessions and departments are not satisfactory too as only 21% of students on average passed the exams.
Mehedi Hasan, a student of Bangla Department in 2018-19 session at Dhaka College, told TBS that teachers did not complete 25% of the syllabus but they had to study all topics. That is why they could not pass.
Professor Mohsin Kabir, principal of Government Shaheed Suhrawardy College, told TBS the question pattern and evaluation system have been changed but the administrations have failed to prepare students for the new system. So, the students cannot pass many examinations.
Wishing anonymity, a teacher at the History Department of Dhaka University said 80% of students write substandard answers on exam papers.
"How can we give marks if there are no specific answers on paper?" he asked.
Teachers' crisis at seven colleges
There are only 70 teachers in Government Shaheed Suhrawardy College whereas it requires 204 teachers to conduct academic activities smoothly. The college administration said it was impossible to ensure quality education with such a shortage of teachers.
Similarly, Begum Badrunnesa Government Women's College needs 250 teachers but it has only 144 teachers.
Professor Sabikun Nahar, vice-principal of Begum Badrunnesa Government Women's College, told TBS they were trying to increase the number of teachers and ensure quality education.
The other five colleges are also staggering due to the severe teacher crisis. Professor Mohsin Kabir, principal of Government Shaheed Suhrawardy College, told TBS he applied to the authorities for teachers several times but did not get the desired number of teachers.
Manpower crisis at DU for conducting exams related activities
Since taking the charge of seven colleges, DU authorities have been facing a manpower crisis for conducting administrative and exam related activities.
According to DU officials, it needs at least 250 officials and employees to provide smooth and uninterrupted services to students of seven colleges, however, the university has 50 staff only.
Last year, the university applied to the University Grants Commission for creating 240 new posts but got approval for only 30 posts.
Even, the university has been conducting its activities in only four rooms whereas at least a building is required.
An official of the university seeking anonymity told TBS that the university is also responsible as there is no visible initiative by the university to resolve the crisis.
DU Vice Chancellor Professor Aktaruzzaman told TBS the administration was working to ensure the smooth operation of academic activities of seven colleges and the crisis would end gradually.
Project or initiative yet to be taken for quality improvement
Neither the education ministry nor the DU authorities have taken any significant initiative to resolve the crisis and ensure quality education at the colleges.
Authorities of seven colleges alleged that they sat with the authorities of the education ministry and DU several times for overall development of the colleges but they did not get any response from any of them.
Coordinator (focal point) of seven colleges and Principal of Kabi Nazrul Government College Professor IK Selim Ullah Khandaker told TBS that the seven colleges have been suffering from teacher shortage, accommodation, library, laboratory and other infrastructure crisis for a long time.
"We have applied to the ministry several times to take a project to develop the academic activities of these seven colleges but we did not get any result," he said.
A positive change
Kamal Uddin achieved an MA from Dhaka College in 2009. He attended 12 classes only and never entered the college library. He bought some guidebooks from the Nilkhet book market and read those before the exam night.
Obtaining a BA or MA without attending classes and visiting the library questions the quality of education and assessment prevailed in the colleges.
However, the colleges have introduced some practices for improving education quality. For example, students have to attend classes regularly. The authorities impose fines on students with less than 70% attendance. Moreover, students are studying textbooks discarding guidebooks.
"Now, we have to attend classes regularly and study more. We thought we would pass just by studying for some days before the exams, which is not possible," said Saif Uddin, a student of Government Titumir College.
Professor IK Selim Ullah Khandaker said on average 60-80% of students now attend classes regularly, which is a big success.
The National University Bangladesh was established in 1992 to "modernise" and improve the curriculum and syllabus of under-graduate and graduate-level programmes in colleges. Before this, public colleges were under public universities including DU. The seven colleges were also under DU.
On 16 February 2017, DU once again affiliated seven government colleges in Dhaka.
The decision was taken to bring all public colleges under public universities but it was not executed and the education ministry published a gazette on re-affiliation.
However, the re-affiliation, without a proper plan to make it work, students of the seven colleges started to face problems in their academic life. Their examination schedules were not announced even after five months of the re-affiliation.
On 20 July 2017, students took to the streets demanding immediate announcement of their exams. They held a protest at Shahbagh.
Siddikur Rahman, a student of Government Titumir College, lost his eyes after the police charged batons and fired tear gas shells.
Losing Siddiqur's eyes could not bring an end to the crises of seven colleges. From 2017 till present, students of the colleges have taken to the streets several times demanding an end to session jam, the publication of flawless results in time, the establishment of an administrative building for them, publication of academic calendar, holding examinations on time, fair evaluation of examination papers and many other demands.
Professor Syed Anwar Husain said only the government's central policy can fulfil the demands of the students and ensure quality education. But the government must sit with the noted educationists.