Srinagar: With its ‘hasty’ decision upsetting teacher-pupil ratios and ‘isolating’ tribal students across the state, the School Education Department is reconsidering the in-house schooling of Gujjar and Bakerwal students which it started from the current academic session at government-run hostels meant for pupils from tribal communities, officials said.
Last month, in mid-academic session, former education minister Chowdhry Zulfikar had “verbally”, as per school teachers, ordered the shifting of Gujjar and Bakerwal students studying in classes 6 to 8 from several middle and high schools in the state to hostels for students from these communities located in each district.
Although tribal community students have been staying at the hostels ever since their inception in 1994, Zulfikar had instead issued orders for starting “in-house schooling” for their middle-school students.
A top official from the J&K State Advisory Board for Development of Gujjar and Bakerwals, which runs the hostels, told Kashmir Reader that in the coming days, the Secretary School Education Department would visit the hostels to “review in-house schooling” started there.
Chowdhry Zulfikar’s “unilateral” decision of starting the in-house schooling has not been well received either by the teachers or the students who have been shifted to the hostels.
Kashmir Reader recently reported on how the forced migration of the tribal students to the hostels had acutely upset the teacher-pupil ratio at schools (‘Tribal students’ in-house schooling upsets academics’, Kashmir Reader, July 15).
Besides “isolating” the students of an already deprived community, the move has also forced the shifted students to study at the already overcrowded hostels that are short of infrastructure as compared to the schools, complain the teachers.
To review the in-house schooling, the official from the advisory board said that there had been “a few meetings” at the board-level itself.
The official also acknowledged the shortage of infrastructure at the hostels as compared to the schools the students had been transferred from.
“Although we have kept some facilities for them, there cannot be the same infrastructure for schooling at the hostels as compared to schools,” said the official.
Asked whether the shifted students would be sent back to school immediately, the official said, “Once we visit these hostels and see the ground situation there, we will be able to take any decision.”
As per the official, higher School Education Department officials too are of the opinion that the decision to start in-house schooling at the hostels has been “taken in a hurry”.
“Having said that, the same people had advocated starting the in-house schooling. It was their initiative. The School Education Department had even promised to provide infrastructure at the hostels for the students,” he added.
Secretary School Education Rigzin Samphel was not available for comments.