Cancelling summer vacations, only to make them sing

Iqbal Kirmani
SRINAGAR: The Department of School Education is mulling to pull almost 500 students, make them practice singing on all working Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from July 22, for a month, to celebrate the Kashmir Sufi music festival ‘Shashrang’ in August this year.
The proposal, however, has been resisted by principals in several schools on grounds that students are still recovering from the effects of the flood. Besides, the principals claimed, the directorate of education cancelled this year’s summer vacations on the pretext that students cannot afford to lose more working days due to the shortened academic session of 2015-16, and had been even asked to arrange extra classes, wherever required, so that students are ready for examinations by year-end.
Examinations up to 10+2 level are scheduled to be conducted in October-November.
“Keeping students busy with extra-curricular activities on three days a week for a month will only hamper education further,” officials from the education department claimed. The officials, who wished anonymity, added these Principals were urged to prepare students for the program.
The proposed music festival has already been discussed with the minister of education Nayeem Akhtar, who has given a nod to the project and joint director Syed Abid Rasheed has passed on the orders to the cultural wing of the department and Chief Education Officers office to take ‘immediate action’. “Please make sure you take immediate required action in the matter as desired by the HEM (hon’ble education minister),” reads the note written by the joint director on the proposal letter presented to him by the Kashmir Music Club (KMC) chairman, Waheed Jeelani.
The letter from KMC to the joint director education, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Reader, says that the joint director had a ‘telephonic conversation’ with the minister of education and the KMC chairman also met Syed Abid Rasheed in his office on June 30, 2015.
“As desired by hon’ble MoE, this year we would like to make our young school children part of these festival celebrations on a large scale. In this regard, it is requested to cooperate (sic) with us in making proper selection of talented students, as we intend that more than 500 young children should perform some group songs on the concluding day of the festival in full traditional costumes,” reads the letter.
The directorate of education then asked CEO Srinagar, in its order of July 8, to take required action in this regard. Soon after the order, the CEO organised a meeting of various higher secondary school principals at Government Girls Higher Secondary school Kothi Bagh on July 11, to discuss the modalities of the function. Confirming the meeting, CEO Srinagar Farooq Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that they were preparing for the festival and another meeting of the principals was scheduled after Eid. “Fifteen schools have been notified to prepare students and we will review the progress in the next meeting,” he said.
The proposal also asks the education department to issue a circular to all Srinagar district schools regarding selection of students who must have some singing talent and that in-charge cultural activities teachers should accompany the students on all days. The selected students ‘may’ be provided costumes and jewellery by their own school. The concerned schools are also asked to ‘provide transportation and refreshment facilities’. However, the CEO Srinagar claimed that all the funds will be provided by the event organisers.
An ‘open-air grand concluding-cum-award ceremony’ will be held at Srinagar’s Botanical Garden. “On this occasion, we expect the chief minister, minister of culture and the minister of education to grace this ceremony, besides the public and art lovers,” concludes the letter.