Their parents spent a fortune on sending them to CARe Medical College. They now face an uncertain future

Inadequate teaching staff, infrastructure and the lack of internship opportunities at the institution have cast a pall over their dreams

Kazi Nafia Rahman, Staff
Published : 19 August 2022, 07:00 AM
Updated : 19 August 2022, 07:00 AM

Silvia Mim paid Tk 1.57 million to enrol at CARe Medical College in Dhaka’s Mohammadpur. During the next five years, she paid Tk 8,000 every month as tuition fees. Now, she has joined her disgruntled peers in protesting against a raft of issues at the institution that threatens to derail their aspirations.

“We spent so much money on securing a spot at this medical college. Now, we face an uncertain future,” said Silvia, as deteriorating standards of education, coupled with inadequate teaching staff, infrastructure and the lack of internship opportunities have put their careers at risk.

Md Abdullah from Cox’s Bazar got admitted to the college to pursue his dreams of becoming a doctor. But within a year, cracks started appearing on the path toward his ambition due to mismanagement by the institution’s authorities. His father, who works in Saudi Arabia, has been paying for his education.

Abdullah said he sensed that things were going awry when the number of teachers gradually began to dwindle. “We don’t have teachers who can give us academic and clinical lessons. We have no professor. We aren’t given any practical lessons. The hospital doesn’t have enough patients for that. Patients are hired for professional exams.”

As the college is not registered with the Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council, it cannot enrol interns, according to the protesters.

Despite the lack of teachers, laboratories and other facilities, the institution continued to take in new students. Now, 216 students are staring at a bleak future.

On Thursday, there wasn't a teacher in sight at the institution.

In these circumstances, disillusioned students launched their protest on Aug 6, demanding that they be allowed to move to other medical colleges.

CARe received the health ministry's approval to conduct academic activities in 2013 and the institution renewed its licence for the 2015-16 and the 2016-17 sessions. It also got the greenlight from Dhaka University for its MBBS programme and took in students for the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 sessions.

The ministry, however, put a ban on admissions to CARe in 2017 and imposed a few conditions on the institution in line with the 2011 guidelines on setting up and running medical colleges.

After the college challenged the decision, the Supreme Court put a stay on the ministry’s order, allowing the college to continue admitting students.

While Dhaka University issues the MBBS certificates for students at CARe, the lack of recognition from the BMDC is depriving them of the chance to train as medical interns.

“I don’t know whether we will get the opportunity to transfer to other medical colleges. We sent letters to the Directorate General of Medical Education. We may be able to complete the MBBS from another college if they allow us to transfer,” said Abdullah.

The institution does not have adequate facilities such as separate reading rooms and lab equipment, the student added. There isn't a permanent lab technician either. The authorities hire staff from outside for the professional exams. The college authorities, however, are unperturbed by these issues, according to the students.

“The private medical colleges need the approval of the BMDC and Dhaka University to operate. We can sit for the professional exams as the institution has Dhaka University's authorisation. But the BMDC is not providing us with the registration numbers we need to pursue an internship after the final exam. This is because we have no approval for medical [studies]."

Silvia said most of the institution's students are from outside Dhaka. "They charged each of us Tk 10,000 for accommodation but when we came here, we were put up in a hospital ward with beds for patients instead of a hostel. We brought our bedding and other things from home and started to stay there. But one day, the hospital authorities asked us to leave around 9 pm, saying some people would be visiting the hospital. They sent us away with our bags and belongings."

"Later, they arranged for us to stay in Mohammadpur's Bihari Camp. We were a group of around 15 to 20 students and somehow managed to spend the night there. We returned in the morning. However, we were sent out again a few weeks later. After facing a lot of difficulties living in the hostel, we found accommodation outside the college."

The students of the 2015-16 session were supposed to start their internship in November 2021, but they still haven't managed to do so as the institution lacks BMDC accreditation.

The BMDC repeatedly asked the medical college to resolve its issues, but the authorities paid no heed to it, said Jion, a student of the 2015-16 batch.

“Our future is at stake. We have nothing but uncertainty and we can’t be acknowledged as doctors if we don’t complete our internship. Migrating to other medical colleges depends on the decision of the Directorate General of Medical Education. If the DGME and BMDC want, we can transfer to other medical colleges. Otherwise, our dream of becoming doctors will be shattered. All the years and money that we've invested will all go to waste.”

Jion said the BMDC's stipulations include the withdrawal of the writ filed by the institution to the High Court, an increase in the number of teachers and patients in the hospital as well as ensuring adequate lab facilities. It will consider CARe Medical College for registration once these conditions are fulfilled.

“Chairman Parveen Fatema told us she needed four months. When we went to meet her four months later on Aug 12, she didn’t allow any of the female students to enter her room. She only spoke to the male students and misbehaved with the parents,” Jion said.

Kafiul Karim Piash, a sophomore, said they only took online classes during the coronavirus pandemic. There were proper academic classes for around three months and then the teachers began to leave the college, he said.

“Anatomy is our main subject but we don’t have a professor or assistant professor to teach us that. We have two lecturers, but one of them is a curator. They’re not supposed to take classes. Another is a histology teacher. They’re not the ones who are teaching us. Each department should have a professor or associate professor, but we don’t have that.”

Golam Murshed Sumon, director of the medical college, said they wanted the students to transfer to other colleges.

"Our chairman and principal signed a petition [on this] and the students have sent it to the DGHS director,” he said. Not all students are willing to leave CARe Medical College, but the protesters made them sign the petition anyway, according to Sumon.

He hoped the BMDC will give its nod to the batch of interns soon. “The process is getting delayed as BMDC President Mahmud Hasan is travelling abroad. We’ll have a meeting after he is back and the approval will be given.”

“There’ll be a meeting with officials of the health ministry, DGME, BMDC and other stakeholders regarding the suspension of admission tests to medical colleges. A decision will be made soon,” said DGME Director AKM Ahsan Habib.

“But the parents should not have sent their children to a medical college without knowing much about it. Our website has information about medical colleges and they should have checked it,” he said.

Asked if the students will be able to transfer to other medical colleges, the director said the authorities usually allow it on humanitarian grounds, especially when a medical college is shut down. “Let’s see what the authorities decide in the meeting.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher