By Akeel Rashid
Everyone who enjoys the political leverage in Kashmir tends to remain busy debating the different aspects of Kashmir issue, however, there seems to be no one among them who might be interested in identifying and solving the concomitant issues – (far too many to mention here – within the ‘Kashmir issue’ itself).
One of the pressing issues that no one is talking about concerns the student community – which has been left high and dry, as it continues to remain the first casualty of ‘political decisions’ in Kashmir. These political decisions are being made by both mainstream politicians and Hurriyat echelons that tend to have a direct impact on the education sector. Ever since the new academic session began in Kashmir, it has been marred by class suspensions and examination postponements – ordered by the government – against the backdrop of calls for shutdown, gunfights and civilian killings.
Education in Kashmir has been reduced to a barometer of normalcy as subsequent to every killing, the government orders closure of educational institutions and then after few days it orders the opening of these institutions again. The authorities being apprehensive of student protests in high schools, colleges and universities might be palatable but what makes them to shut-down the kindergarten and primary schools is totally absurd.
The closing down of educational institutions is conditioned by the last years protest demonstrations staged by the students in different educational institutions across the valley which the government managed to quell by ordering the suspension of class work; besides, the police arrested many students who were allegedly involved in stone pelting and protests (– most of them teenagers). The government, this year, seems to be wary of any possible student protests in response to the civilian killings which is why it is ordering the closure of educational institutions beforehand. It is time for the government to reconsider its decision of imposing restrictions on educational institutions because the circumstances that led the students to stage protests, last year, are apparently not the same in the current year.
The education sector of Kashmir, particularly the higher education, is already in bad shape and the frequent closure of the educational institutions is further aggravating its functioning. In such a situation, the students are in a bind as the primary issues related to the education have taken a backseat. One among the wide range of problems that the students are currently facing is related to the semester system which was introduced by the Kashmir University for undergraduates in the year 2015. This academic system has proven a total failure; nevertheless the authorities are yet to rethink this scheme of examination which has so far delayed the degrees of the 2015-batch undergraduates by almost one year.
The issue of education lies within the Kashmir issue and in order to settle it, the education sector needs to be detached from the politics; this doesn’t seem possible right now, but it’s worth a try — only if the politicians (all-inclusive) in Kashmir will act as reformers.
The tough circumstances influencing the education sector in Kashmir tend to lower the aspirations of the student community and if the conditions remain the same, these will definitely take the shape of a normalized culture in the near as well as the distant future. If the society in War devastated Syria has the grit and determination to continue the education of its children, amidst one of the world’s most hostile conditions, why can’t Kashmir take a cue from it?
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]