ISLAMABAD-Around a dozen students on Wednesday protested outside Higher Education Commission (HEC) and demanded a semester fee waiver as students remained unable to attend regular classes due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

The students from different Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) gathered outside HEC and held sloganeering against the HEIs regulatory body for not playing an active in compensating the students. Theprotesting students viewed that a large number of them remained unable to attend the online classes due to low quality and inaccessible internet facility and a semester of the students was wasted due to poor management of HEIs and HEC.

Protestors’ representative Muhammad Asad Bin Azam said that students are facing number of problems in conducting the online classes. He said that either online classes should be started in all cities or should be suspended as the students unable to attend are suffering. Asad Bin Azam said that a semester of students has been wasted due to COVID-19 situation and the students must be promoted to next semester.

“Either exams should be conducted or they should be promoted to next semester,” he said.

He also said that if the HEIs and HEC cannot formulate a policy of promoting the students to the next semester, they must waive the fee of the students as they suffered and paid the fee during the virus spread. Students said that majority of the rural areas of the country do not have the quality internet service and they are suffering most.

The district administration in order to control the protest placed barbed wires and negotiated with the students to call off the protest due to the threat of the virus thread. Students held sloganeering against HEC blaming its policies as unfriendly for the students and stressed implementation on their demands. Later, students dispersed after the negotiations with the district administration.

Meanwhile a statement issued by HEC said that it has assured the students to solve problems, being faced by some of them, regarding internet connectivity and quality of lectures in their online classes as well as subsequent examinations. On Wednesday, a few students gathered in front of HEC Secretariat Islamabad to raise their concerns. They were told that HEC is in contact with the vice chancellors to resolve all such issues being faced by students. They were, however, categorically informed that promoting students without examination was out of question.

Also, efforts are afoot to address some of the connectivity issues faced by students through collaboration with PTA and the Telecoms. Regarding their concern for fee being charged by the universities, students were told to inform HEC about any specific issue that will be taken up with the respective university.

During a meeting with the vice chancellors just before Eid, the Chairman HEC had also asked the vice chancellors to take steps to resolve the problems facing the graduating students on an urgent basis, in addition to making decisions about new admissions, thesis research and use of laboratories. HEC has also shared its guidelines with the universities about thesis defence, allowing it to be online.

“All the complaints need to be taken seriously.” He informed the VCs that an appellate procedure will soon be set up to look into the complaints.