Friday, August 22, 2008

Higher Education in Cyprus and Prothom Alo's Unethical Practice

I can't remember precisely when I started seeing alluring advertisements in the Bangladeshi newspapers promising a prosperous future for higher education in Cyprus. In our country where pursuing higher education has become difficult even in undergraduate level due to a severe lack of seats in public universities and exorbitant tuition fees in private universities, this kind of advertisements is sure to catch hordes of naive, unsophisticated yet aspirant people.

Each and every day, a noticeable portion of the pages of various popular newspapers is occupied by ads of different agencies located in Dhaka who purport to make sure your higher education in Cyprus. While I was going through today's issue of Prothom Alo, the leading Bangla newspaper in Bangladesh, a news item caught my eyes - "Going Cyprus for education has become a nightmare" where a myriad of adversities faced by the unfortunate students who went Cyprus were described and tales of torment of a few students were also narrated. In a nutshell, these students didn't get what they had been promised by those agencies. Out of sheer curiosity, I opened the ad page immediately and saw a tiny puny ad of an agency named SK INTERNATIONAL which confirmed visas for Cyprus with facility of bank loan and no IELTS score and described many advantages such as credit transfer to UK, USA, EU countries.

I have been a regular reader of Prothom Alo for the last 7 years because it, in my opinion, presents objective news and views. But today's contradictory approach on their part filled me with dismay and I decided to make a phone call to their office. When I managed to talk to someone after passing a few minutes listening to their promotional ringing tone and computerized instructions, I introduced myself as a reader of Prothom Alo and wanted to know the justification of publishing a news item describing the plight of expatriate students in Cyprus and the deception by numerous agencies here in Dhaka in its last page as well as an ad of an agency for higher education in Cyprus in its page 14. The man on the other side told, "This news is a warning to the aspirant students who want to go Cyprus. Now it's you who have to decide whether you'll go there or not. Before you fly to Cyprus, you must investigate the claims of different agencies and assess the prospect." When I termed it unethical practice, he, in an attempt to enlighten me, immediately told, "A newspaper needs both objective news and ads for its survival. We don't know which agencies are honest and which are fraudulent. We publish ads of only those who are approved by concerned authority." He tried to assuage me by saying that he would convey my displeasure to the news editor. When asked, he told me that he worked at 'service desk' and gave me the official phone number of news editor in case I wanted to talk to him directly. I thanked him and ended the conversation, being even more disgruntled.

I don't think, a newspaper of that stature like Prothom Alo is badly in need of ads from fraudulent agencies since its circulation is huge and it can easily manage ads from other sources. I believe it can smoothly go without these ads which are luring many young people to a seemingly prosperous and improved future behind which a dark life fraught with lots of predicaments lurks.