Pulchowk Campus: The Best?

November 17, 2014, my first day in
Pulchowk Campus. A dream degree I had planned, and prepared for, since I watched ‘3 Idiots’, lied in front of me. Just like in ‘3 Idiots’ I had cracked a tough entrance to enter the best college in the country (apologies for the self-praise). I had my expectations. I remember the day when I was last passionate about engineering. It was probably my first day of college. On that day, I had had an impression that the best college in the country, maybe, is not so best.

Do you know that a student in Pulchowk Campus may not have a seat for him/her in the classroom? Yes, that is true. In a class of 48 students, there are 15 benches, each with a capacity of seating three students which makes a total of 45 seats. That is the first year classroom for you. In second year, there were nine rows and five columns of chairs and desks totaling a seat capacity of 45 (again!). In third year though there are 45 desks and 48 chairs arranged such that the legs of the desks are in between your legs (yes, picture that scene, I’ve been there!). I think the campus either expects three students to be absent every day (which would not be unreal, to be honest) or the campus knowingly takes more students than it can hold, which is carelessness of the highest level. You know what is more surprising? I have never seen any student organization, political or apolitical (still political) make an issue of this. They are unaware, I guess. Students in a student organization unaware of their own class’ problem. This is what our education does
to the brilliant minds.

Classrooms are not only short on benches or chairs, they also lack in technology and modern teaching methods. Most of the teachers and their teaching methods are not only outdated, but also painful. This is why I said expecting students to be absent would not be unreal. Main thing that brings them inside the classroom is the mandatory 70% attendance rule, not the charisma of teachers. There have been some teachers who teach so well that they don’t need to threaten students with the attendance rule and the students still come to class. Sadly, that breed of teachers are almost non-existent. These things, in combination, make classrooms second most painful place to be in the Pulchowk Campus. The most painful place to be in? You are just about to find out.

Among many unwanted surprises that Pulchowk Campus provided me with, surprisingly, toilets turned out to be the most surprising. Imagine my level of surprise that I have used three forms of the same verb to express it. Every department’s toilets have similar problems to most extent. Most are unclean, smelly and often short on water. But Civil and Science and Humanities departments’ toilets have an even bigger problem: they don’t have urinals! I was shocked when I first saw that. I believe the campus administration has created an environment to release the stress developed due to sitting through boring lectures for male students (Sorry girls!). All the classroom stresses get evaporated when they see their pee fall onto the wall and cascade down making different patterns and finally falling into an open drain, than does not always flow, combining with the pee of their friends and afterwards the combined pee smell is released into the air. Until a few months ago, the college cared about its female students too, especially their fitness. On second floor, there was the only ladies toilet in civil department. The first two years’ classes are on ground floor. So, every time female students had to answer the nature’s call they would have to climb up two floors by stairs which increased the amount of exercise, which contributed to their overall fitness. That opportunity is now gone! Every time you are stressed out in Pulchowk Campus all you need to do is, perform ‘Just another pee on the wall’!

Pulchowk Campus is a tough place to be. After you survive painful classes and smelly restrooms, you wish some refreshment in the canteen. And the campus disappoints you again. Foods in the canteen are like diamonds, not expensive or wonderful no, they are the hardest thing I have to eat. Stale food are not good refreshments. Only food/drink of standard quality are soft drinks and juices (also tea, occasionally), which the canteen has no part in manufacturing. Still the canteen is mostly full of people, just like restrooms, and short on food. Because you may skip the class, if you want, and later watch YouTube tutorials to catch up, but you need to pee and eat. Study can wait, food and pee can’t.

Library is one of the places with less imperfection. There is enough reading space and books are easy to issue or return. However textbooks are not always available or not available in sufficient quantity. But the most annoying part is the books are issued only for three months. So, you have to carry all the issued books mid-semester to renew the date. If the issue duration could be made six months, that would make lives easy for students.

More than fifteen thousand students take entrance to get into Pulchowk Campus and I feel IOE is being unfair to them. The entrance questions and the preparation time should be same for all the examinees. Technological advancement should not be used just for the sake of it and definitely not at the cost of being unfair. Instead that technology should be introduced into the classroom and the curriculum. Sadly, that is not the case. Not a single software is taught in civil engineering
course.

All of those things said, Pulchowk Campus still holds a reputation in the market. That reputation, which is gradually fading, is mostly being preserved by the brilliant students of this campus. But some students lose their way. I think the campus is not capable of harnessing the brilliance of the students it gets. Some students do exceptionally well due to their sheer determination. Most ex-brilliant students struggle their way through for four years and end up graduating with mediocrity.

Pulchowk Campus is a beautiful place. Beauty overflows, especially during spring, when Jacarandas and other colourful flowers boom all over the campus. But this is only on the outside. I have already presented the inside story. There is a myth “Pulchowk Campus was second best in Asia”. “The best in Asia” would have been a little superfluous, even for a myth. (After all we are talking about a college, not a constitution). But that myth can be turned into a reality. Not second best, at least twentieth best, or even two hundredth best would be a great place to start.