Kashmir is famously known for its natural beauty and hospitality of its people. Besides that, Kashmir has always been cited as the place of ignited minds, be it is the list of authors and poets, or scholars and philosophers. Kashmir has always remained at the peak of intellectualism, but it is no surprise that at the same time, the people of Kashmir have undergone a state of unrest, lockdown and, most prominently, an educational downfall.
In this modern world of technology, Kashmir is no longer accessible to full-fledged techniques, whether it is for production or educational transformation. The people of Kashmir have always been dragged back in the steps of development. Taking a serious note of education in Kashmir, the children of Kashmir have been the unluckiest of this century in terms of educational transformation.
Students are more institutionalised to off-school education than to the regular classes. Regular schooling is seen as an abnormal condition in Kashmir since 2016. Taking a dig at the recent lockdown of Kashmir due to the abrogation of Article 370, all educational institutions remained shut for around seven months.
Nearly a million students in Kashmir attended classes for the first time on 24th February 2020 after 210 days of educational shutdown. Just after children of Kashmir envisaged the school life, it was again hit by another hurdle that came in the form of COVID-19, due to which schools were closed as per government advisory in wake of virus.
This is not for the first time that schools have been shut for months at a stretch in the Valley. In 2008, schools remained shut for two months after turmoil over Amarnath land transfer issue, and again in 2010 over alleged fake encounters and subsequent killing in protests. In 2016, schools remained closed from July to March following the killing of commander Burhan Wani.
Whether it is a natural calamity or uneven cycles of a lockdown, Kashmir’s education has remained at the top of severe damage both at individual as well as State level. Taking a dig at the government in promoting education in Kashmir valley, it has always stepped back from blaming the people of Kashmir for its growth, rather than implementing plans to not disturb education in the Valley by providing a safe and secure atmosphere for schools, instead of occupying them with the forces. The government, be it the State or Central, has never been serious about the education sector of Kashmir.
While on one hand, where the world is promoting education through online notes and lectures in the time of the pandemic, on the other, 4G internet services still remain suspended in Kashmir, which has hit students hard and drained their dilapidating mental state. As the dispute continues and may continue to switch to alternatives terms, education for children of Kashmir is a crucial area of discourse.
Being a well-wisher and educated youth of Kashmir, I personally believe that we, the people of Kashmir, should take more responsibility than the government in seeking education reformation for Kashmiri children, as the government seems indifferent in view of Kashmiri education. In terms of the shutdown of educational institutions, the people of Kashmir should choose to align with alternatives rather than depending wholly on schools.
Here are some steps that I found quite sound and effective, which we should ponder upon. The society, parents and teachers of the Valley should cooperate to overcome this paralysis of education in Kashmir:
Reformation begins from the roots. Starting from universities hosting scholars and post-graduate students with higher responsibility towards society, books circulation should be made possible by every group of students. College students lie in the same category. Book circulation will also enhance their studies in a proper and organised way. This will help out a lot of students, particularly at a village/society level. This will wipe out the reasons for not having books or material to study and will surely enhance the performance of students to read more and more, as the circulation will be free of any cost.
All seniors should be mentors to their juniors. This step involves mainly Class 6-12 students who need to seek part-time tuition from their seniors in their locality. The more they involve their seniors, the more will they learn. It also involves senior students of a locality to take into consideration the education of their juniors in view of the turmoil.
It further involves book circulation, notes-sharing and advise from educated seniors. Teachers, professors and experts of a subject also come under this section. They will guide the student in a proper and precise way. They are well-versed with learning techniques from their experience and excellence. Members of localities need to cooperate for the sake of education.
The remaining sect of students is below Class 6, needs proper socialisation with proper education, which a parent or guardian can provide with love and care. The family needs to be concerned about the education of their ward with the ongoing socialisation norms in their homes in times of unrest. Family members are the ones with whom these students are attached, and no one but they can understand them. They are the ones facing considerable loss of studies as they particularly depend upon others to study and grow.
These are a few steps to secure education in Kashmir, as regularity of schools is far away from reality and seems like an elusive goal. While political parties stand high enough not to listen to the sorrows of students on ground, the unchartered character of an unrest in Kashmir is always free to come.
It is high time for the people of Kashmir to think about the educational setback as a way to tackle this severe problem, and nourish and prosper with adequate education. It’s only the students of Kashmir who are continuously suffering through the greatest loss of their life. Adequate support and cooperation from family and society and encouragement to tackle the problem will surely result in an attainable educational goal.
About the author: Sheikh Aatif is pursuing Economics Hons from Aligarh Muslim University. They hail from Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir.