On the Morass in the Education Sector: An Open Letter to Mehbooba Mufti and Altaf Bukhari

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By Irfan Kashmiri

Dear Madam and Dear Sir:
Nowadays, it is a famous and well known saying in Kashmir that ,to become rich over night “ either open a private school or a private hospital”. The problem has become so acute that the education sector is seen now as a lucrative business than a noble profession or even vocation.
Let me start with the incident that I witnessed on 11/02/2018 early in the morning. It was raining, and I was about to visit SKIMS, Soura to consult a doctor. After traveling some 10-15 Kilometers from my home, I found students carrying their school bags rushing towards the coaching centers, covered with warm clothes. The questions that nagged my mind were: why schools had been closed due to winter vacations? If parents chose to send their wards in these coaching centers without caring for their health, why schools are closed for almost 3 months every year with the intention that the cold season may affect the health of school going children?
Finally, why were or are coaching centers being allowed to function in winter?
An order in this regard has been issued by DSEK/J to ensure proper accommodation and heating arrangement in these centers which is seen very rare in these centers. If the normal monthly fee for one month for a student in rural areas is Rs .500 why they are being charged and compelled to pay Rs1000 to Rs.2000 for the same month without providing the facilities according to Government norms. In the school going season summer to autumn), a child goes to school through bus , van or car but in these cold days(winters) it is being observed that same children move towards the centers on foot despite cold conditions. Another fact is there that we have to give prescribed fees of school for these 3 months also despite of vacations.
My suggestion would be that timings should be changed to 4 hours from 6 hours in winters and class work must continue same as in summer to autumn. The J & K state government should look into the matter and make some arrangements of heating in all schools by providing extra little bit budget for the infrastructure, so that we can save the state exchequer as well as precious time of students. Recently, the Government has issued a statement that it would provide a separate holiday calendar for the education sector. What is the need of that? If our teachers take rest at least 5 months in a year as compared to other department employees who perform their duty 24×7 with the low grade salary, why can’t teachers do the same?
The government should understand that the salary of 3 months which is given to education department employees like teachers , lecturers , professors and so on is totally loss to state exchequer because if the government has already an SRO (ISMA) in which it has been stated that “no work no pay””. The question is: why government pays for no work despite the standing SRO. I am also recalling the statement of Nayeem Akhter who once said that the government will change the exam session from October -November to March -April so that the students will not suffer academically.
Talking about the construction of school buildings, from Teacher level to ZEO level, we can see contractors in the form of Government employees. These teachers lay much emphasis on the construction work despite what they are employed for. A ZEO is rarely asked for the academic progress report by higher ups but is weekly asked for the status of buildings which are under construction in his Jurisdiction. A ZEO is rarely accountable before the enforcement agencies for the academic or transfer matters but nowadays it is seen they are mostly visiting Crime Branch, Vigilance offices in connection with the embezzlement in schools buildings funds. The interesting point is that a ZEO if promoted to Principal HS level makes all efforts to retain himself as ZEO, whereas any other official makes all efforts to get the higher positions at an earliest by any means.
It is also felt that some reputed coaching centers have access to the policy making of Government. Because, we can see a person who owns coaching centers runs the business in shifts like “ 8-11, 11-2, 2-5, 5-8., the question is: “Who are the faculty members in these coaching centers?” “Who owns these centers”? They are licensed government servants like teachers, Lecturers, professors and so on. On one side they are getting the salary from parent department for 3 months on the other hand they run their shops, that is , the so called coaching centers in same time period.
Now, the recent circular issued by the J &K Government directing all the teachers to report back to their posting before 13 days has stormed the social media and posed the question: what teachers have to do in empty schools? I would like to draw attention towards the fact that what teachers do in past when it was unrest in valley for months? Can’t a school management take advantage in these days to organize parental meets, (which remains mostly an excuse of teachers for low results) ,framing of suitable time tables , awareness among the masses for enrolling their wards in Government schools, as there are most qualified faculty as compared to private schools. In lieu of this , I make a fervent appeal to Mehbooba Mufti and Altaf Bukhari to frame a committee in order to come up with a suitable curriculum and mechanism for the Education sector in order to eliminate these evils and menaces.
Thanks in anticipation.

—The author is from Handwara. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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