Khan Basit Bilal, 17, a class 11th student at Mehjoor Memorial High School (MMHS) Pulwama, stealthily sits on a chair in one corner at district Public library. He then starts whispering something to his friend.
On insisting he revealed that he is actually counting the number of school days which were wasted due to shutdowns or due to closing of schools by authorities after gunfights which frequently take place in his home town and its surroundings.
An ambitious science student, Bilal aims to crack national eligibility entrance test ( NEET) after passing 12th, a-prerequisite for seeking admission in a medical college.
For him education becomes the first causality every time an encounter breaks out between militants and government forces in his vicinity.
He said that his school opened for only three days from 1st of August till today.
Interestingly, three of his examination scheduled dates were postponed by authorities after encounters broke out in his vicinity.
On 1st of August when militant commander Abu Dujana and his associate, Arif Nabi Dar was killed in an encounter with government forces at Hakripora village, Bilal’s examination date for English paper was postponed, on 3rd August date for Physics Paper examination was postponed after a civilian, Akeel Ahmad of Gabbar Pora, who was shot by army at his native village died at a Srinagar hospital.
The Biology paper scheduled on 12th August was postponed after joint resistance leadership had given a shutdown call against repealing of article 35 A.
Though, the examination for biology was held on 16 of August. The examination dates for two other papers are yet to be announced by authorities.
“On an average the schools remain shut for two days a week after authorities order their closure,” said Bilal, adding that after 15 April police raid on government degree college Pulwama his school remained closed for around a month.
“We started preparing for first term examinations from first March but couldn’t cover the whole syllabus. Around 20 percent syllabus remained uncovered,” said Ubaid Hussain Lone, another student of the same class.
He said that their second term examinations will start by November. “I don’t think that we can cover the syllabus in next two months,” said Lone, adding that this will impact their NEET preparations.
Bilal and Lone had worked hard to cover the whole syllabus by taking tuitions twice a day but the coaching classes too were impacted by uncertainty.
Frustrated, Bilal doesn’t want to be promoted to next class. “I will study one more year in the same class,” he said, adding that he is planning to migrate outside Kashmir.
“Next year I would seek admission in Aligarh Muslim University,” he said.
Many of their classmates have already migrated to different places. The list includes Shahid Nazir, Muzaffar Ahmad and Mohammad Asif.
The teachers at MMHS said that only 10 percent syllabi couldn’t be covered. “We plan to have extra classes to compensate for the loss,” said Ghulam Mohudin,” Principal MMHS Pulwama.
However, many teachers feel that additional classes would be burden for them. “The administration always victimizes the teacher community by such arrangements,” said a teacher wishing anonymity.
Chief Education Officer, Pulwama, Mushtaq Ahmad ruled out possibility for any additional classes.” You need extra resources for additional classes which are not available at this time,” he said, adding that syllabi are farmed keeping in view number of working days.
“When the numbers of working days get reduced, syllabus automatically gets impacted,” he said, adding that they desire to keep only those schools closed which fall in the immediate neighborhood of the encounter sites.