School is the foremost fountain of knowledge children are exposed to. It gives a chance for them to acquire knowledge on various fields of education such as people, literature, history, mathematics, politics, and other numerous subjects.
School is the first avenue of socializing for a child. With schools, children are exposed not only to new ideas but also to same aged compatriots. This instills sociable practices such as empathy, friendship, participation, assistance which turn out to be important in their adulthood. In schools, presence of activities such as sports, craft help children direct their boundless energy into something productive.
Schooling came into existence in Europe in the period of enlightenment (1650-1780) and education became accessible to almost everyone there.
In India, until nineteenth century, we had only gurukuls and some madras’s where only elite class would send their children to get education and a major portion of the population was deprived of it. The elites were unwilling to share it with others as they feared it might awaken them and their superiority might be challenged.
People had to fight a long battle to get the equal opportunities in education for their children, and it took decades together to make education accessible to everyone in India without any discrimination, and the citizens of India are now enjoying equal opportunities in education across the country.
But Kashmir is an exception. It has been witnessing a huge and an irreversible loss to the education sector for the last 30 years. With the advent of 1989, it became impossible for a Kashmiri Student to fulfill his dreams and desires.
Now we are in 21st century, every sphere of life got changed. We see a change in socio-economic and political conditions of life but right to education still remains a dream for our children in Kashmir. We have been living in a state of shutdowns, strikes, curfews, encounters and the suspension of internet services. Closing down of schools has become the safest strategy adopted every now and then.
The students have become the victim of such circumstances, sometimes missing exams and sometimes are being barred to travel to exam centers which results in academic losses besides the development of deprivation, anxiety and depression among them. In Kashmir, the students are never sure whether or not they could attend the school next day. In 2008, the whole Kashmir remained shut for almost four months and schooling was badly affected.
Again in 2010, the schooling remained suspended for two months. In 2016, there were prolonged strikes and schooling remained suspended for about four months. During the same year schooling was conducted for just a brief period of about four months. The 10th and 12th class exams were conducted immediately in the month of November covered only 40% of the curriculum in schools, whereas the students in class 1st to class 9th were given mass promotions.
In 2019, the schooling was again suspended by the administration as a precautionary measure post revocation of articles 35 A and 370 on 5th of august 2019.The entire valley observed shutdown and the children didn’t join their schools for almost seven months. The children remained out of their classes, having no access to the outer world as both communication and internet services were snapped.
Students couldn’t see their results, apply for on line admissions, and submit their fee dues through online mode. Students across valley remained confined in their houses and could not complete their prescribed syllabus. The lockdown was followed by the democratic world’s longest internet shutdown, which was only lifted in the first week of March 2020 when authorities restored access to 2G internet.
In entire Kashmir, the students couldn’t visit their schools from august 2019 to February 2020 and when they somehow joined their schools in the month of March 2020, another lockdown was imposed, this time to contain Covid-19 across the country and students were again barred from their schools for the whole academic year 2020.
Schools and colleges, among the worst affected by the lockdown to contain Covid-19, switched to online classes to salvage their academic sessions.
But 2G speed didn’t allow them to reach to their students whereas their counterparts across the country were enjoying their classes without any technical interruption. In a tweet, the ex- principal secretary School Education department, government of Jammu and Kashmir, Asgar Samoon had acknowledged that low internet speed was hampering online education as the department released funds for distributing books among the students of Classes 1 to 8 in the union territory. “Kids have no Ipads/no access to desktops; cant download text books as internet is slow,” Samoon said. Meanwhile the govt. of Jammu and Kashmir told the Supreme Court that “Right to internet is not a fundamental right.”The J&K government’s submission came after the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in January, 2020 had declared access to the internet a fundamental right. It has been now for two years when the students of the state are away from their schools and one can imagine the mental state, chaos and frustration they are going through at the present moment. All this has developed a sense of deprivation, hopelessness besides pain and frustration among them and loss of interest in studies which is not less than a human disaster (catastrophe).
Under such circumstances, mass promotion and deduction in syllabus has become a safe strategy for the authorities, which is dangerous trend fraught with disastrous consequences upon our budding generations. All such measures and circumstances in Kashmir are actually spoiling the future of our students and our colleges and universities are presently producing graduated illiterates and uneducated graduates. An economic survey done by J and K Govt. in 2017,stated, “The main contributors to the lessening of the attainment of the quantity of education include destruction of infrastructure, fear of sending children to school, incorporation of youth into armed groups, negative economic shocks to the households and the forced displacement.” On June 3rd 2020, an amalgam of 30 trade bodies in the valley including Kashmir chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) revealed that Kashmir has witnessed 3000 days of lockdown in the last two decades.
The child’s emancipation is to discover his own self, his potential, power and capability which is only possible through education and proper schooling. Let our children get equal opportunities and chances of education like the children of the country do and let them not go waste and become the prey of circumstances anymore. We can no way afford the cost if we snatch right to education of our children, for which both the state and society will be held responsible. John Clarke has rightly said,” powerful people cannot afford to educate the people that they oppress, because once you are truly educated, you will not ask for freedom or power. You will take it.” A child is God’s gift and a prosperous society can be dreamed only when this sacred creation is empowered by education and there lies no alternative to schooling if we want to liberate our children from the hopelessness and despair which they are going through since their birth in this part of the world. Deprivation of education has done no good to the problems our state has been facing for the last 30 years. Only it has added to the miseries of students and hampered their growth and development which is a big loss and can never be reversed. Let their right to education be protected. Let the government Of Jammu and Kashmir UT make efforts to safeguard the basic rights of children by not closing down schools and snapping the internet services on daily basis.
The department of education should also come up with some new plans and strategies to impart education in the times of turmoil and lockdowns so that the further loss could be minimized. Secondly, our political players, religious preachers, scholars and intellectuals must put their efforts together to safeguard the rights of our children and make people realize the importance of education and spare Child’s education from turmoil for the sake of service of humanity. Only then can we expect our society to produce the future leaders, scholars and intellectuals to lead the nation and make this ill fated society a prosperous and developed one. We hope that in coming days our children will again meet their peers, friends and teachers in their schools and their rights will be protected.
(Writer is a school teacher at Govt. Secondary Institute Brath Kalan Sopore. He can be reached at: [email protected])