Bangladesh medical students start street protests, demand online classes

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Dhaka, Nov 01: Students of government and private medical colleges in Bangladesh have staged a protest at Shahbagh, demanding online classes as an alternative, as they refuse to sit for exams amid the coronavirus crisis.

Online classes will open a path to complete their academic courses in time and end the academic session jam, they said.

Hundreds of students occupied Shahbagh intersection on Sunday, disrupting traffic. Some vehicles moved slowly through the nearby alley only.

Earlier in the day, the students formed a human chain at the Central Shaheed Minar and brought out a procession that ended at Shahbagh.

The Directorate of Health Services decided to hold the first, second and third professional exams in the medical colleges in the last week of December. The students, however, declined to sit for the exams until the coronavirus pandemic ebbs.

Attending the exams when the country is heading into a second wave of coronavirus cases will put their lives at risk, the students said.

Under the circumstances, the authorities must start online classes for the next level as an alternative to physical classes in order to ensure the students complete their academic courses in time.

According to the provisions set by Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council, the students must pay tuition fees for 60 months during their study.

In that case, the authorities in private medical colleges will make them pay the entire amount despite the academic classes being stopped, and they will charge the students again for the extra classes later.

“Academic sessions have been on hold in the medical colleges across the country like other educational institutions since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Now we’re heading towards the second wave of coronavirus infection. But recently the DGHS issued a notice to hold the exams in phases,” said Suruj Islam, president of Bangladesh Private Medical and Dental Association.

Students have submitted a memorandum to the prime minister, the health minister and the deans of medical colleges urging them not to hold the exams at present and wait for the situation to go back to normal.

“The students of 125 government and private medical college students were compelled to stage protests. We’ll continue to protest until our demands are met,” said a protester at Shahbagh.

“Many of us have lost their loved ones to the coronavirus. We’re not in a position both physically and mentally to sit for an exam.”

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