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Why Kashmir’s Education Policies Are Failing Its Children

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Education policies in Jammu and Kashmir have been always under the scanner for one or the other reason; be it the recruitment policy of teachers or providing quality education to students, policymakers have always tried to be whimsical in relation to the education sector but the desired output hasn’t been achieved yet.

Despite sufficient funds allocated for the sector, the problems or the inefficiency of the system deprives students of quality education. This time around, the education system is facing a serious challenge in Jammu and Kashmir.

After the abrogation of special status, Jammu and Kashmir were once again shut and the education system suffered the most. Fear of spreading Covid-19 further created uncertainty. Internet shutdown for months and online classes on 2G speed added salt to the injury.

Representational image.

It has been now more than two years since schools were closed in Jammu and Kashmir. The government is not even considering prioritizing the reopening of schools. With every passing day, children are unable to access in-person schooling and fall further behind, with the most marginalized paying the heaviest price.

Any political system plays a crucial role in our education system but as per the present situations, our educational processes seem to be full of bluff and errors. Every policy, program, and scheme in J&K is introduced with good intentions but it is not enough to change the scene. Sometimes it does not work in the same way as it is presumed to.

The National Education Policy was approved in July 2020 and there is a large chunk in the education sector who still are unaware of the policy, its comprehensive framework for elementary education to higher education, as well as vocational training especially in Jammu and Kashmir.

The ‘Worst’ For The ‘Best’?

Painting buildings and writing two-line stanzas on their walls never make a school ‘model.’ The biggest virtue of education is discipline. Why do parents in Jammu and Kashmir send their wards to private-run schools? The answer is that in private schools, there are set principles and nobody could go beyond the marked boundaries. We have a huge number of educated youngsters who aim to go for JKPSC (Jammu And Kashmir Public Service Commission) or JKSSB (Jammu And Kashmir Services Selection Board) teaching jobs.

Due to a limited number of seats available for teaching, some qualify for the exams, and some do not. The PSC or JKSSB exam qualifiers are marked as the ‘best’ and the ones who did not cross the line are termed as ‘worst.’ The best ones (JKPSC & JKSSB qualifiers) teach at government-run schools and produce the worst. However, the worst, who did not qualify for the JKPSC or JKSSB exams went to privately run schools for teaching jobs and produce the best. This is the reality of the education system in Jammu and Kashmir, although some exceptions are there.

Reform in the education system is the only thing that can help in the future of youngsters without pressurizing or putting any burden on the existing system. It will also improve the system of accountability which will surely turn a page and lead to a true era of development. The government schools will be able to produce the ‘best’ too.

The role of digitalization cannot be overruled. We all moved overnight to the online system of technology when coronavirus engulfed the world and the ‘change’ of moving to online platforms proved helpful and kept the students intact with their schools, colleges, and universities.

Online Classes And Reforms

By now the story is familiar. Private schools took the lead in online classes and then were followed by government-run institutions. We are living in an existing system and we have to deal with it. We have been urging and encouraging the government to make a good education system and to address the problems in the system. Apart from higher education institutions in J&K, how many government-run primary schools have computer labs? At the time of board results, how many government teachers have been held accountable for bad results? On what basis the transfer of teachers is made?

There is no set policy for transfers, no set parameters for government-run schools, no practical guidelines for teachers, no grass-root expert who can advise the government on real functioning and making model schools and other intricacies. These concerns hint that it is high time for Jammu and Kashmir governments to act early against the serious challenges that the education sector is facing.

With educational reforms and new policies that need to be undertaken by the current administration, one can hope that the system is definitely going to change if not completely but at least up to the extent that will allow a feasible change in the future as well.

Promoting students without making them appear in exams and citing reasons for pandemic and online classes is a big loss both for students and for the UT. It is better to start now rather than being part of the mess. Students especially those who are doing professional courses should never be promoted as it will only lead to the creation of deadwood.

One can take lessons from countries who opened the schools with proper measures so that the education of the students shouldn’t get halted. A new generation is at stake and custodians are at war within. We will be all collectively asked what we did to save a generation and future of youngsters. We owe a future to our generation and answers as well. Nothing is working as the government is much more interested in security measures rather than addressing concerns on reforming the education system.

Umer Wani is a gold medalist and a Ph.D. Scholar at Department of Journalism & Mass Communication, IUST. He is U.S. Legislative Fellow-2016 and U.K. Bridge Institute’s Kalinga Fellow-2020. He tweets at @umerwani99

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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