Lengthy admission time stresses 22 Bhutanese scholarship MBBS students bound for medical colleges in Bangladesh

DAHE, education minister, foreign minister shares their stand, students will board flight by September end, this year
“I completed my higher secondary education in 2020. I got a scholarship to study MBBS in Bangladesh. But after more than a year, we didn’t get any information on college placement.”
“We tried reaching out to every concerned authorities but none paid any heed.”
“It has become a huge concern for 22 of us because its running almost two years now. And if enrollment gets delayed this year too, then we won’t get placement anywhere due to the time gap,” said one of the students.
Time is slipping from the hands of 22 academically excellent high school students passed out in 2020.
“20 Bhutanese students studying MBBS on Sri Lanka, our batchmates are now in second term,” said the student.
Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) selected them for the scholarship to pursue Bachelors of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) and Bachelors in Dental Surgery (DBS) after a competing with almost 90 equally deserving candidates.
“We were not given any information regarding why we are left behind for this long. Even those studying MBBS privately went ahead of us.”
“DAHE should inform us. What’s going on?”
“DAHE told us that both the Royal Bhutan Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Bangladesh Embassy in Thimphu are pursuing with the Government of Bangladesh regarding the delay in admission.”
They were to be sent to some renowned medical universities across Bangladesh after the selection procedure was completed in May 2021.
One scholarship student claimed that their classmates pursuing higher education under Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) are now promoted to year II.
“But we, the medical scholarship student to Bangladesh don’t even know the names of our university yet.
“Even our juniors in the country has started with their tertiary education and we 22 are here clueless and waiting pathetically to get our classes started,” added the concerned student.
The medical colleges in Bangladesh started taking classes for the new enrollment a month ago. The local Bangladeshi students will be more than a month ahead with curriculum. 
Citing Covid-19 pandemic as the reason, their seniors got their placement information on August 25, last year. And left for Bangladesh on September 22.
“We were expecting earlier or on the same day. But we hear nothing! Last year it was during the peak of the Covid-19 Pandemic. But the situation has relaxed this, so we expected to improve but instead getting worse!”
The Bhutanese scholarship students designated university names are normally listed with the South Asian Association and Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
“Bangladeshi government should make sure that the SAARC scholarship candidates are enrolled with their locals. Admission shouldn’t be delayed by more than a week or two,” added another concerned student.
The students are already feeling the pressure of the missed chapters they need to make up for. “Definitely! We will have to cover all the lessons, exams, or tests or viva we missed for some confusing reason.” 
“Our seniors in Bangladesh shared that they are going through a hectic schedule and hell of a time trying to catch up and cover the lessons and chapters they missed.”
Moreover, the aspiring doctors have submitted all the required documents such as their personal information, mark sheets of classes X and XII, college preference and signature of their guardians in March this year.
They also got their passport printed and remained excited to venture into the journey of higher education.
They also made a mandatory payment of USD 75 to the government of Bangladesh in March while filing in their documents.
However, the delayed admission is now taking a toll on their mental health. Anxiety and stress is mounting among 22 of them. The uncertainty and the time lost waiting to be enrolled is crushing their dreams of higher education.
They claimed that they are walking their head hanging lowly in shame as they couldn’t do any productive work expecting they would be enrolled anytime soon.
“22 of us are here mooching off parents with heavy guilt and convincing people we might go which almost seem like a lie by now.”
“Admission in Bangladesh is delayed every year for Bhutanese students pursuing MBBS and BDS without proper reasoning.”
Ten full scholarship students, five Assistance as Privately Enrolled Medical Students (APEMS), five self-finanancing MBBS students and two Bachelors in Dental Surgery (BDS) have decided to raise the issue not just for themselves but for the future aspiring doctors dreaming to go Bangladesh for higher education.
The five-year MBBS course with one year internship will now take be like eight-year long course considering the waiting time.
“Eight precious years of our lifetime to complete six-year course is unfair!”
“Similar situation might happen to our juniors as happened to or predecessors. We want improvement in system for our successors,” said one of the aspiring health worker.
They also called out the government to show some care and concern for the youth in the country. 
“I thought the government cared for every youth. But after waiting for more than a year to join college and literally no one noticed. It feels like we the youths are on our own.”
They regret the time they let go in waste. “We should have been  engaged in medical studies or in other related field because the prolonged wait has made us forget what we learnt before.”
At least, if the concerned authorities cared, we  could have stayed involved in some productive programs. At least they could have informed us. So that we could figure out and plan for ourselves during the long wait.”
The students also mentioned that it’s a lame reason to waste their time, leave them in dilemma.
“In the name of pandemic and scholarships, delaying college more than a year is a matter of great concern,” repeated the students.
“At some point, I even entertained the idea of appearing language proficiency test (IELTS) and carry on with life.”
“But the second thought of making this far, all the sacrifices and the struggle endured, I couldn’t let my life’s dream to dust off just like that.”
“And at this point, I am at a stage I feel so lost. No sense of direction, no purpose. I have not felt anything like this one.”
“We don’t know who to blame! DAHE? Bangladesh government? Foreign ministry? Education ministry? Anyhow we feel miserably neglected.”
“We sent e-mails and tried to reach out but no response from anyone.“
On the other hand, Bhutan faces the shortage of medical staff. Bangladesh has been training young high school graduates to become qualified doctors.
The uncertainty in enrollment, the delay in enrollment and a prolonged waiting period for the Bhutanese students taking troll on their mental health and them dreaming and working hard to become a medical expert should be resolved as soon as possible.

DAHE’s stand
Chief of scholarship division with DAHE, Sherub Gyeltshen said that the placement for the Bhutanese scholarship students will be decided by the government of Bangladesh (GoB) and board members of medical colleges in Bangladesh.
“We sent them the list and details of the scholarship students. When it’s figured out, the placement will come through Bangladesh Embassy and forwarded to DAHE. Then we can relieve the students,” he said.
The Chief claimed that the Bhutanese students are provided scholarship on a subsidized rate on tuition fees in Bangladesh. “We pay negligence amount to the universities in Bangladesh. Thus, we also need to follow the academic session of Bangladesh,” added the Chief.
Chief also clarified that the course that started in August 1 for the local Bangladeshi students must be for private institution and not the government institutions.
He said that their seniors were relieved in September, last year. “We are yet to hear from the Embassy of Bangladesh and ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA). We are hoping the placement list will come soon and relieve notification will be sent out soon.”
DAHE is following up with the GoB frequently. “ We are equally concerned and worried for it’s taking longer duration,” said Sherub Gyelthsen.
“We also understand the pressure and stress the parents and students must be undergoing,” added the Chief.
DAHE stated that the delay in admission happened since last year because of the pandemic.
However, DAHE wants the students to know that it is in constant touch with the Bangladesh Embassy in Bhutan and MoFA. “We are corresponding regularly with the Bhutanese Ambassador in Bangladesh too.” Said the Chief.
There’s even a group chat created for the students. DAHE said that they update and inform making sure to let them know the status.
“We informed them that the list of their college placement is expected to receive in a week. But, it didn’t. I think the students freaked out and started raising the issue suing social media platforms.” Said the Chief.
“If we get the indication today, we would love the students to know about it instantly. There’s no point in hiding the information. We are all in the same boat. We would be happier if they are enrolled early. We too don’t want them to miss their lessons and classes,” added the chief of scholarship division.
It seems like a normal trend for the Bhutanese students to wait for the more than a year to get college admission despite obtaining excellent marks. “The future situation also depends on the university providing study opportunity. If there’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government or the universities, it’s timely that MoFA consider reviewing it,” said an official from DAHE.
The chief also said that the Bangladesh Embassy in Bhutan is also trying their best. DAHE has been helping high school graduates to look for scholarship abroad since 2004.

Education Minister’s Stand:
Sherig Lyonpo, Jai Bir Rai said that the delay in dispatching the 22 scholarship students occurred as result of mismatch in timing between the two countries. Normally, the medical and dental colleges in Bangladesh holds admission test in October and the classes starts after January. Whereas, class XII students sit for board examination between November and December month and result declared in March or April in Bhutan.
Moreover, Lyonpo said that the 22 MBBS students didn’t exactly wait for two years as their exams were pushed as a result of Covid-19 pandemic. “They are MBBS cohort 2021, there must have been a communication gap.”
Education minister stated that if Bhutan changes it’s exam timing to fit the scholarship timing with the Bangladeshi universities, then it would affect the Bhutanese students pursuing studies in India, Sri Lanka and other countries. “Timing is really tricky. Moreover we being the recipient side, Bhutanese students must follow the methods of Bangladeshi universities,” said Sherig Lyonpo.
Moreover, all education institutions across the country were shut off for the emerging Covid-19 pandemic situation suspending examinations and new enrollment pushing and pushing the schedule of college admission. “Thus, the ripple effect of GoB’s decision is extended to Bhutanese medical students.”
Lyonpo also said, “There’s no clarification from the university in Bangladesh explaining what’s taking them lengthy time in enrolling the students. Often, the political instability and natural disaster in Bangladesh makes it difficult for the GoB to provided clarity on admission time.”
Lyonpo said that Bhutanese students will have to waste no more time when Bhutan starts its own MBBS course at Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan.
“For now, the university offering the scholarship program is the real boss. We the recipients of scholarship are like a beggar, has no choice but to wait for their instruction,” said Lyonpo.
“Even my daughter waited for a year, who’s studying MBBS in Sri Lanka. Ando some of our friends completed their MBBS course in 10 years due to such issue,” added Lyonpo.
“We are information from MoFA which is also dependent on Bangladeshi embassy to exactly say when our students can join their colleges,” said the officiating Director General with DAHE.

Foreign Minister’s Stand
Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji, MoFA’s minister said that the government is doing everything in their hand starting from finding scholarships for the Bhutanese students.
“Students are out there ranting out their frustrations on social media platform. But it’s nobody’s fault. The situation can’t be blamed on anyone,” said Dr Tandi Dorji.
The foreign affairs minister claimed to have discussed the matter with the Bangladeshi Ambassador on September 2. “I was told that the MBBS students will be enrolled by September end,” assured Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji.

Bangladesh Medical Colleges
Bangladesh provides affordable and high-quality education attracting aspiring doctors from across the world. Students from Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Maldives, Nepal, China, Russia and some African nations get admitted every year in Both private and public medical colleges in Bangladesh.
As many as 200 seats, out of which 15 seats are reserved for Bhutanese students who excelled their academic performances in class XII science in the government medical colleges of Bangladesh.
The lost of time, almost two years for 2021 cohort, high school pass out students of 2020 could be because of GoB pushing its admission schedule in 2020 to combat emerging Covid-19 pandemic.
Moreover, the students who applied to Bangladeshi mission as a part of an admission process need to experience lengthy admission process. There are a total of nine steps of verification with nine agencies for security check.
Political instability in Bangladesh, public out there demonstrating strike and sometimes the natural disaster such as heavy monsoon rain bringing flood also contributes to delayed admission of foreign students on time.
However, the government and the related stakeholders must look into saving precious time our youth waste waiting to be enrolled. If there be the need, as the students suggest, the government must come up with a plan to utilize the waiting time doing a productive learning activity.