On a dry day in Balochistan’s Kech district, a few college girls from Degree College Turbat, as well as other town locals approached the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route and blocked all traffic. The college girls hailed from cities east of Turbat, and they complained that their college bus had been dysfunctional for over a year, disturbing their education.
When they were forced to miss their college due to the bus not working, the college administration had issued a notification saying the missing students would be expelled due to their absence. When the students asked their college administration to provide transportation, they were asked to manage their transportation by themselves. When they checked with private car companies, the drivers demanded Rs4000 per month which most students could not afford. Failing to find any possible solution, the college girls turned to CPEC route and blocked it in protest.
The largest province of Pakistan also holds the record for being the most neglected region. For the last two decades in particular, Balochistan has witnessed horrible circumstances in every department, but especially when it comes to education. In the educational sector, although girls have faced harder hurdles as compared to the boys, overall it has always been a collective deprivation for both genders. The recent protest by Degree College Turbat girls is an example of the dire state of education in the region, which has created an emergency. “We asked the college principal to provide us transportation, but she suggested that we should protest on road adding that the college had run out of budget,” Ganji Baloch, one of the protesting students, said.
For an entire year, they tried every possible method to get a bus, but have continuously failed to gain administrative and governmental attention. From press club to roads, district and college administrations to governmental officials, these young girls have not left any stone unturned to get their problem solved, but all they received was disappointment. “They should at least have the courage to tell us to our face that they are unable to get us a simple bus,” Ganji said.
Last year in December, these girls took to the Turbat Press Club where in a press conference they demanded that authorities should get them a bus. All the while their exams were just a few months away, and the girls were also facing possible expulsion from college due to their persistent absence. The young students were asked to readmit their names by refilling forms and paying extra admission fees, which was yet another issue for the poverty-stricken girls. “We could not afford an education, how could we manage to repay for admission?” the student grieved.
Balochistan MPA Zahoor Ahmed Buledi of Turbat has been tacit towards the concern. When I tried to contact him, he remained reluctant to respond, even though he has been actively engrossed in Twitter-replies trying to defend his assembly position and showcasing the construction of a Buleda-Turbat road, a project that has been going on for years with seemingly no near end.
On the other hand, Additional Deputy Commissioner Kech Aqeel Kareem Baloch said that the district administration has had ‘successful negotiations’ with the protesting students and locals after which the road was left open for transportation. “Their demand is being fulfilled as [DC] has directed to put new tyres and that will be done within a few days,” he commented.
For want of only four tyres and fuel expenses —which are apparently already provided to the colleges— the bus was kept in a storage unit, ultimately wasting the precious time and resources of the college girls. This year, they have missed out on a lot of things. The biggest challenge however, is that they are still unsure if concrete measures to functionalise their bus will even be taken . What if the administration continues its delay policy? Will the college girls return to protest on the roads? Or are Baloch students fated to always be on roads in pursuit of basic necessities like dignity, security and now even education?