Preliminary official estimates indicate that over six thousand schools may have be damaged or destroyed in Kashmir during the recent floods. Annual exams were round the corner in most cases when the calamity struck, and the administration was gearing up to hold the high school, or matriculation, examinations. As in other spheres of life, infrastructure in the education sector, state-run as well as private, too has sustained massive damage, and figures may not yet be accurate enough, and sufficient, to convey its scale or ramifications.
Opinions vary on how to handle the academic as well as the logistical challenge with respect to schools, particularly in view of efforts to have a semblance of putting severely disrupted life back on track. Concerns about safety of school-buildings submerged in water for days cannot be dismissed lightly, nor should hasty and impetuous decisions be allowed to put the health and lives of children at risk, as cleaning up, not just of silt and rubble, is proving to be a long and arduous task.
Disturbing reports of sanitation measures like fumigation being governed by political and other expediency too have created an atmosphere of anxiety, and as reality begins to sink in after the euphoria of a valiant fight for survival and deserved praise for heroic and selfless civilian rescue and relief operations, resignation and defeat could be lurking just beneath the surface. Such is the magnitude of loss – for individuals, businesses, and families.
It could be argued that starting schools any which way may prove therapeutic for flood-hit families as they go through the motions of normal activities like sending kids to class, but can they cope with the practicalities without the usual accoutrements of living? So many are sure to have lost text books and much of what goes into children’s education, and many are doing with less than the bare essentials required in ordinary homes.
Agreed that the massive effort required to set Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir on the path of recovery requires thought, planning and coordination, and as New Delhi has refused to accept international offers of help, it would be reasonable to expect that the union government has a plan of action. But so far the major concerns appear to be ones revolving under insurance claims. Ordinary people would certainly want issues like the state apparatus of health care functioning again, and appreciate the government making a considered statement on schooling. Parallels with 2010 are misplaced as school infrastructure that tumultuous year was intact, as were family resources.