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DU affiliation conflict : What is it all about

  • Published at 12:37 am July 28th, 2019
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A group of Dhaka University (DU) students lock the gates of administrative buildings demanding an end to the university's affiliation with seven colleges on Sunday, July 21, 2019 UNB

The students of seven affiliated colleges under Dhaka University (DU) took to the streets several times since their affiliation in February 17, 2017

Over the last few days, separate demonstrations by students from seven Dhaka University (DU) affiliate colleges, and DU students themselves, with their respective demands yet to be fulfilled, have threatened to boil over.

The students of seven affiliated colleges under Dhaka University (DU) took to the streets several times since their affiliation in February 17, 2017. 

At least 200,000 students of these affiliated colleges have been suffering directly or indirectly. 

They took to the streets primarily demanding session jam relief and the publishing of exam results on time. Most often, they have called off their protest movements upon assurances from DU authorities about their concerns being addressed satisfactorily.

In most instances DU published the results to address their concerns and set up an independent website for them as they had demanded. 

On July 21, DU pro-VC (Administration) Dr Muhammad Samad also announced a separate 5000sq ft academic floor space for activities exclusively concerning these affililiated colleges. 

DU students, resentful of the special treatment given these affiliates, have taken to the streets twice.  Most recently this month Dhaka University students demanded the authorities cancel the DU affiliation of these seven recently affiliated colleges.

They said students of these seven affiliated colleges have taken over their tutoring market labeling themselves ‘DU students’ when they are not genuine students of DU, but affiliates only. 

The DU student demands include cancellation of affiliation for these seven colleges, the publishing of results within two months of examinations, digitalising administrative activities, and controlling vehicular traffic on campus.

The demands of students of the seven recently affiliated colleges include promoting 2017-2018 academic session students to their second year in college, reevaluating exam scripts to prevent large scale failing, instituting an easier reexamination system, and publishing results within three months.

What do the authorities say?

The DU authorities have assured both groups they will meet their demands. They also formed an 11-member committee led by Pro VC (Administration) Prof Muhammad Samad, to give recommendations within 10 working days to address the seven college crisis.

On July 21, Prof Samad in a press briefing said: “There is no jurisdiction of DU to cut ties with the seven colleges as the decision of affiliation was taken by the government.”

DU VC Prof Dr M Akhtaruzzaman on Wednesday said the problems concerning the seven affiliate colleges would be addressed in an orderly manner, adding that: “Seven colleges have been affiliated under DU randomly. So, for a viable solution and to protect the interests of the University, it needs to provide a reasoned and  methodically sound approach to addressing problems.”

Talking about their ties with Dhaka University, Principal of Dhaka College, Prof Nehal Ahmed, told Dhaka Tribune: “More students are attending classes than before, since our activities are now under the supervision of the Dhaka University. the administrations of almost all the seven colleges are under pressure to conduct classes regularly where students are now more motivated and interested in attending classes. But the infrastructural and the shortage of faculty members has become a big problem nowadays.”  

Bangladesh Chhatra League met the Education Minister, Dr Dipu Moni, in this regard. According to Principal Nehal Amed, the minister had assured them the crisis would be addressed by the 1st week of August.

What are the protesters saying?

Abu Bokor, a fourth year Bangla Department student of Dhaka College and one of the coordinators of their movement, said the reason for the massive failure rate was the evaluation of exam papers by DU teachers. 

He said: “We are not getting the same quality and opportunity of education like DU students, but DU teachers are setting questions and evaluating answer scripts by their standards, which is illogical. The answer scripts should be evaluated by our own teachers.”

 “There may be some benefit in not promoting many students. When the unsuccessful students sit for improvement exams the next year they have to pay around Tk3500 which is the same as what they pay in a regular year,” Abu Bokor added. 

Shakil Miah, a fourth year Dhaka University student of Management Studies told the Dhaka Tribune: “Our only demand is to get relief from the seven colleges. It is an extra burden on us.”

“The DU authority has already proven its inability to run things efficiently for there is a crisis in student housing and other administrative problems, which has often prompted bonafide DU students to take to the streets. Why then does the DU have to take on additional responsibilities to run other institutions?” Shakil questioned.

 “The aim of affiliation is to increase and develop the quality of education in those colleges. However the students of these colleges are in limbo with their results and other issues since their affiliation with DU. This needs to be scrapped immediately,” Shakil said.

The latest protest 

Soon after taking charge of the university, DU vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Dr M Akhtaruzzaman acknowledged that DU had granted affiliation to those colleges without proper planning. 

The results of the first year honours final examination, 2017-18 academic year, were published after six months, and students had to take admission to attend second year classes without knowing whether they had been promoted or not. 

On July 10, the DU Exam Controller’s Office started publishing the results for the 2017-18 Session with the Philosophy Departmentresults , with a devastating pass rate of ingonly  27.63 percent.

The students then started protesting the mass failing with posts on their facebook portals in their various groups: DU Affiliated Seven Colleges, Seven Colleges under DU, Information Desk of 7 Colleges, and prepared to physically gather under these groupings. 

On July 16, students blocked the Nilkhet-New Market intersection, demanding scrutiny of the high failure rate, publishing error-free results within 90 days of finishing the examinations, a separate academic building for the 7 colleges, and classes to be taken by DU teachers at least two days in a month.

The protests were further fueled by an Economics department student of Begum Badrunnesa Government Mohila College of the same academic session committing suicide. 

Moniza Akter Mitu, of Munshiganj district in her July 16 suicide note, wrote: “No one is responsible for my death. I am choosing to die as I cannot make my parents happy with my results.” Mitu had failed in three subjects out of four.

It is should be noted that Eden Mohila College was the only college where only one student out of 118 successfully passed in all four subjects. 

Protesters claimed that Mitu died due to the negligence of the DU authorities.

Student of the seven affiliate colleges students cleared the streets after assurances from DU Proctor AKM Golam Rabbani on that day with regard to fulfilling their demands.

The demands and their repeated protests by blocking the Nilkhet-New Market intersection, a key entrance gateway to DU, was not accepted favouralby by DU students. 

Hence, the mainstream DU students in counterprotest blocked the Shahbagh intersection on Wednesday, demanding withdrawal of affiliation for the seven colleges. They argued that DU teachers would fail to give adequate time to full fledged DU students if they had to take classes for the  seven affiliate colleges. 

Certificate issue

Concerning the issuance of certificates to the affiliate college students with a DU logo and letterhead, protesting DU students said it would kill their job opportunities, one of the main reasons for their demand to scrap the affiliation.

The DU authority cleared their stand on the certificate issue, saying that if necessary, they would issue certificates with different colours.

From the outset, there were always visible differences between the DU certificates, and those for the seven affiliate colleges, ever since DU held the first convocation for affiliate college students in 2018, which was DU’s  51st convocation. In certificates, the name of the residential hall comes after the DU student’s name, while the affiliated college’s name comes after the student’s name in the case of DU affiliated college certificates. For instance: one may read Afsar Hossain of Haji Mohammad Mohsin Hall, and the other may read, Sohorab Hossain of Dhaka College.

Convocation issue

DU protesters criticize the seven affiliated colleges for holding their convocation alongside DU students. This is another reason for their demand to scrap the association of DU with the seven colleges. 

The DU authority arranged the 51st convocation for  DU students  at the university’s central field on October 6, 2018.  Male students of the seven affiliate colleges joined the convocation from the Dhaka College grounds, and female students from Eden Mohila College, by video conference.