Educational Institutions are assets of modern societies. They promote economic growth, through the acquisition of technical and skill based knowledge. Moreover, educational opportunities have a profound effect on individual life chances and attainment.
While the sweeping Internet censorship and curbs that loom over the Kashmir, making students to suffer in one way, the government sponsored shutdown of educational institutions seems to be the latest in the saga. Every time a civilian or militant killings happens in any part of the valley, the education department issues a diktat of closing down schools, colleges and universities. The most smitten part is the downtown area of Srinagar, where the restrictions imposed by government forces strangle the working of schools and colleges. The students of Kashmir’s largest and highest learning institution, Kashmir University’s main campus located at Hazratbal are the worst sufferers of this problem. The students have to cross downtown routes to reach the university. Each time they are stopped by government forces on duty. Thousands of parents and students share the worry.
In Kashmir, educational institutions have remained shut on 60 percent working days since July 2016 (FirstPost, May 30, 2017). The government then blamed resistance leadership for pulling down the functioning of schools. The schools and colleges remained shut for more than five months in 2016 and the board exams were taken later in November, with fifty percent syllabus relaxation.
The latest diktat appears to be the order of authorities to frequently close schools, colleges and universities on apprehensions of any flare up in law and order. The repeated postponement of exams especially University students has taken a heavy toll on students academic activities. This casualty started unfolding after student uprising broke out in 2017. The anger simmered and turned into street protests in which hundreds of students got injured. The clashes emerged only after the government forces trespassed on the Degree College campus in Pulwama to arrest some alleged stone pelters and thrashed students. Later, the school and college campuses turned into battlefields, when students tried to march outside their campuses to protest this act of government forces at Degree College, Pulwama. The police baton-charged students and later on the authorities had to shut down most of the schools and colleges especially in Srinagar and South Kashmir.
The government each time justifies these orders by making the flimsy excuses by calling it a ‘precautionary measure’. Well, it may make frayed tempers to cool down, but how for long? Can we let the political turmoil in Kashmir affect education? The answer is no. No prudent society will allow it to happen. Can we afford education less generations? The answer is again: no. The halting and stanching the functioning of education institutions by authorities is a tragedy and a cataclysm. The government is ruining the future of students.
On May 4, 2018, the state government came with a ‘new academic calendar’ to make up for the lost time of students, that had occurred due to the ‘hartal calendar’ of the resistance leadership. The Kashmir education department came up with ‘an academic calendar’ to offset any loss of academic activities due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ or law and order issues. It was relayed to the public, that the educational department was going to keep schools open on subsequent holidays. Furthermore, it was said, by this very decision, the standard of education would improve and the minimum attendance of class work won’t be compromised. It now seems to be the case of the desperation for the education department.
The stanching of functioning of educational institutions by regularly closing them down, puts the careers of students at stake. The way the situation is unfolding, it is least ‘expected’ that the authorities , in the near future, are going to let educational institutions function ‘normally’. If the authorities are having any interest in the upliftment of the education sector in Kashmir, they should practically prove it by letting educational institutions function ‘normally’. By frequent closure of institutions, students lose their interest in studies. It disturbs the whole of their academic career. I close with the hope, that these freaky diktats are stopped henceforth. If we want to secure the future of our generation, education of students should not suffer.
—The author is a student of Law at the Department of Legal Studies, Central University of Kashmir. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org