PESHAWAR: For three days recently, more than 70 male and female students of Bannu Medical College stayed in the provincial metropolis to stage protests and interact with whoever could help them in seeking resolution of their problems.
This was a desperate attempt to invite attention of the authorities to the sorry state of affairs at their college, which was established in 2006 by the then chief minister Akram Durrani as he tried to bring every conceivable project to his native Bannu. Four years later, it is still lacking in many respects.
The students were hoping that their protests in Peshawar and better media coverage would prompt the provincial government to take measures to upgrade facilities at the college for meeting the standards required for its recognition by the Pakistan Medical and Dental College (PMDC).
Their protests made an impact as Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti convened a high-level meeting on June 2 to discuss the needs of Bannu Medical College. If properly implemented, some of the decisions that were taken would help resolve the problems highlighted by the students. The Khalifa Gul Nawaz Teaching Hospital, named after a freedom-fighter, would be made fully operational by the end of the year, an endowment fund would be set up to offer incentives and hire the needed teaching staff and request would be made to the federal government and PMDC for provisionally recognizing the college.
The students, though, are sceptical as in the past also promises were made and forgotten following their earlier protests. However, they are determined to pursue the matter as the first batch at the college is now in the fourth year and non-recognition of Bannu Medical College by the PMDC would render them ineligible to appear in the MBBS examination.
The 500 students of the college had earlier organised demonstrations in Bannu and set up camps selling pakoras and sewing clothes as a mark of protest against the government’s apathy to solution of their problems.
A group of students narrated their woes as they sat down with this writer while camping in Peshawar recently as part of their protest campaign. They had been on strike since May 13, refusing to take classes and instead agitating on the streets. Their major concern was non-recognition of their college by the PMDC due to its various deficiencies.
Initially, 50 students yearly were being admitted, then the number was raised to 100 without providing the requisuite facilities. The intake of students is now 153 and the college strength would rise to 653 later in the autumn when new admissions are given. This has led to overcrowding in the classes, laboratories and hostels, which in case of male students were set up in rented buildings and lack basic services. There are more than 200 female medical students belonging to places all over the province and they too are suffering due to the plethora of problems at the college.
The Khalifa Gul Nawaz Teaching Hospital is not yet fully functional. Work on its construction started in 2004 but only six out of the 11 planned blocks have been built until now. Shortage of teachers is a serious issue. Ninety sanctioned posts of the teaching faculty are still vacant. The PMDC in its last report following a visit by its designated inspection team noted that the college was being run with 20 percent of the required teaching staff only.
According to the students, the problems at Bannu Medical College kept piling from the tenure of its first principal, Dr Omar Ali Khan, who was followed by Dr Shafiullah and was recently replaced by Dr Khan Nawaz. The college principal was normally entrusted with four posts, making it difficult for him to concentrate on his job.
The Ittehad-e-Talaba, the united platform of the protesting students, highlighted many other problems concerning their inadequate library, the non-operational Self Learning Resource Centre, the poorly maintained laboratories, security concerns, etc.
The Bannu Medical College is the third biggest college in terms of students’ strength after the Khyber Medical College, Peshawar and Ayub Medical College, Abbottabad. However, it is fifth in order of merit primarily due to its many inadequacies on account of the government’s inability to meet its needs. The college could slip further in ranking if remedial measures weren’t taken to resolve its many problems.