Our universities are exploiting us

Universities have no authority to sanction raids in student rooms or going through their belongings. I can’t wait to go to where Im not considered a walking ATM machine.

Nicholas Sharaf September 28, 2010
Before enrolling into my university, I was required to sign the usual hosh posh of documents that institutes require to ensure that they’re protected if the students ever decide to ‘act out’. This also included a written oath which demanded that I would abide by the rules and regulations of the institute regardless of what they were and failure to do so would lead to my expulsion from it. The complete sets of rules were compiled in a book and every student was required to go through them before being admitted.

The book itself comprised of the usual assortment of rules that are synonymous to educational institutes worldwide yet there were a few of an unorthodox nature that had me questioning their intent. The rulebook declared that all forms of student unions were banned from campus and that any form of student gathering without the permission and approval of the administration would be seriously looked upon. Protests of any nature against the administration or its authority would lead to the direct expulsion of the students involved without challenge. The rulebook also claimed that the administration had the power to alter and introduce new rules at any time it felt necessary and we were expected to abide by them without question. Revision of fees and other costs would also be done by the administration and no justification would be provided.

Taking our country’s political history into perspective and the nature of its political parties, I could understand the argument against having student unions on campus. Government universities have long been plagued with violence, blackmail and harassment at the hands of so called student unions that are armed and fed by politicians to meet their own motives. This has often led to the outbreak of gang-like behavior which isn’t fit for any place that boasts the literate youth of the country. However, the rest of the demands seemed sinister and unnecessary yet I was told to make do with them or find some other University.

Students pay in cash

I am lucky enough to say that during my four years in that institute, I was fortunate enough to never have crossed the wrong side of our administration and to have not broken enough rules to warrant a disciplinary hearing. I did however witness many instances where the administration acted in a questionable manner at the expense of its students. I would never claim that the administration ever acted out of spite against any particular student although I do believe they could care less about our plight and did everything for their own gain. And it is this attitude that has made me question the way things are managed in our institutes and I decided to do a bit of research.

The administration has no authority to be sanctioning raids in student rooms where members of the discipline office go through student’s personal belongings such as suitcases and computers. As far as I know, if anyone wants to go through the contents of my luggage, he needs probable cause and sanctioned permission from the court of law to do so. Neither does anyone have the right to confiscate my cell phone and go through its contents without my permission. However, such incidents are daily practice in our educational institutes and if questioned, the students are subjected to bullying tactics where hefty fines in the range of Rs20,000 are thrown around if not expulsion itself.

'We don't answer to you'

Fee structures and the cost of degree documents such as transcripts are regularly changed to the liking of the administration and no justification to the changes ever provided. Recently, the cost of issuing a transcript from the student office increased threefold from Rs500 to Rs1,500 and upon inquiry I was asked to mind my own business. How is it not my business how much I pay for a transcript that comprises of a flimsy piece of paper and a signature? And amongst other things, why am I charged monthly for cable TV, breakages and internet when the service the institute is providing me is pathetic to say the least? And why am I not within my rights to ask for an audit of what I’ve paid for and the services I get in return?

More so, when the institute deems that I have broken a law and must be subjected to a disciplinary hearing, why can I not present my case in front of a neutral body? Why is it that the judges at my hearing are the same people who are leading the prosecution? When matters as serious as harassment that might lead to my expulsion from the institute are being discussed, why do I not have the right to plea? And why can I not challenge their decisions?

Pay up if you want to graduate

Institutes in Pakistan are given a free reign over their students and they use it to their full advantage. Students are blatantly exploited out of their rights and for their money on a daily basis and all of this done under questionable legal documents they students are blackmailed to sign at the very beginning.

In a system where my rights as a human being are being compromised and my family’s ambitions and wealth exploited on a daily basis, my loyalty towards the system wavers. Institutes within our country implement rules and regulations that are in direct violation to its constitution and are allowed to run freely without any accountability and we do nothing about it. Society as a whole sits quiet and lets these few in power steal from us while our courts sit preoccupied with political scandals and their own sources of entertainment.

After having been looted and plundered for the better part of my college life, I don’t think it should come as a surprise to anyone that my faith in this country’s institutes and nation itself is at a minimum. If this is the sort of environment that the youth of this nation is going to be put through, why should we expect them to bring about a positive change?

As far as I’m concerned, I can’t wait to leave all this behind and go to places where I’m not considered to be a walking ATM machine waiting to be robbed.
Nicholas Sharaf A computer systems engineer who graduated from Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute. His interests include politics, blues music and football. He tweets@niccosharaf
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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