(Mis)handling the SMU issue

For a large number of Bhutanese who graduated from Sikkim Manipal University (SMU) these past few months have been living in the roil and torment of the time. The small hope that the prime minister offered them four months ago, that their degree would be recognised, has hit the wall straight and come to naught. The government’s stand now is: there is nothing that can be done about it. They, the graduates, feel vastly cheated and lied to because that’s the only feeling they can have in such a situation.

That the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) and the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) are resolved that they will not to accept distance education degree from SMU is incomprehensible. At the best it is insanely unwise. As can only be expected, the wave of such an ill-conceived decision has laved other government, corporate and private employers that will now not take in jobseekers with the degree from SMU. Some have begun to threaten those who are already employed with forced resignation. Taking undue advantage of the situation, some employers have resorted to blatant mistreatment of the employees. It is appalling that RCSC and ECB, both formidable institutions with significant mandates, failed to foresee the eventualities that their decisions, whatever reasons influenced them to settle on, could give rise to.

And here we are in the mess that a few offices, Bhutan Accreditation Council in particular, created because they couldn’t muster the courage to see beyond black and white.

Pursuing further studies abroad was the only option for many Bhutanese who the country’s limited colleges and tertiary institutions couldn’t take in. This still is the case. Many middle-class parents avail of loans [money is hard to come by] to send their children outside to study so that better prospects might await them in the future. It is unfair that after years of hard work and hundreds of thousands of ngultrums spent on their education that their academic transcripts and graduation degree should be considered worthless piece of junk.

This blinkered decision prompted by unreasonable egotism has thrown a new set of challenges at our door. How these offices that cannot consider reality outside what’s in the rules and regulations that fall far short will look at and own the mess they are about to create will be closely followed. As if the country isn’t already overwhelmed by the staggering youth unemployment issue, we are going to add thousands more to the figure. That, really, is where we are inching.

Dealing with this  situation will require not much more than common sense. Accept the degree certificates of those who have already graduated and of those who will be graduating. Set out a deadline so that parents are children are aware that graduating from SMU is meaningless. That much we can and must do. Sympathy and empathy just will not help.

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