The Sikkim Manipal Issue

l Usha Drukpa, Thimphu

 

On August 21, 2017, 48 graduates from the Sikkim Manipal University (SMU) met the Prime Minister (PM), Dasho Tshering Tobgay, to “seek assistance and help the graduates.”

While the graduates claim that the PM said that a meeting between the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) and the Bhutan Accreditation Council (BAC), to discuss the issue will be held, it brings to the forefront an issue, which a civil servant called “working within their boundaries.”

“This is what happens when different agencies work within their own compartments, thinking that they are autonomous and can frame any rule,” he said, seeking anonymity. When asked who should be blamed, he said that it is definitely the RCSC and the BAC. “The BAC should provide a solid reason on why SMU cannot be accredited and the RCSC should give equally strong reasons for not recognizing the degrees,” he said. According to him, the ECB will “naturally follow its rule set by the RCSC and the BAC.”

Another civil servant said that on the government’s part, letters were written to the ECB and the RCSC to help the graduates. “A local paper had covered this news, where the education minister in one of the meet the press said that though the government had sent letters to the ECB and the RCSC to sort the issue for the graduates’ help, the two agencies were not convinced.”

Meanwhile, graduates from SMU say that they are confused.  “We have gone to the ECB, RCSC, and BAC, but none of the agencies are either providing us a valid reason or even showing a gesture that our case will be studied,” a graduate said, adding that “everyone is throwing the ball to the others court.” “The RCSC earlier mentioned that if the BAC accepts the certificates of SMU graduates then RCSC does not have any problem with it. But the BAC says RCSC is the lead institution,” a graduate said.

When questioned about the quality and capability of SMU graduates, another graduate said that the RCSC is the only agency checking the quality and capability of graduates through examinations. “Without even recognizing our degrees, how can they just dismiss us,” she questioned.

“We are not only seeking for interventions to recognize our degree. We just want a valid reason, one that can convince us and if we get this, we will stand by the decision,” one graduate said, reiterating that their case “shows that agencies will only take the rewards and stand on the sidelines, if such issues come out.” She further added that some of the graduates have sat for the Preliminary Examinations (PE). “Is this not an example that agencies are not doing their jobs properly,” she said, reasoning that if their certificates are not recognized, why students are allowed to sit for the examinations.

The graduates also say that there should be a proper definition of “distance education.” “We wore uniforms, went for regular classes and did the examinations in the colleges. Just because our certificates say ‘distance education’, can we be considered as ones who have undertaken distance education,” one of the graduates questioned.

During the interview, The Journalist learnt that few of the graduates are aspiring to contest in the elections next year.  When questioned if political aspirations are making them take up the issue, an aspiring National Council (NC) candidate said, their issue has “nothing to do with politics.” “Yes. It may deprive some of us from joining politics, but what we are asking and requesting the agencies is to give us a valid reason and shut the issue. This will enable us to plan for the future. Though we are graduates, right now we do not know if we can even look for jobs with our certificates.”

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