As Kashmir and its institutions continue to reel under the influence of conflict since the last three decades, its devastating impact on the education system seems most pronounced. Being a child during times of armed conflict is not a salutary experience. Conflicts affect millions of children, their daily life disturbed by the ingress and imprimatur of the same.
In conflict situations the fundamental right of children, that is, the right to education, is one of the serious casualties. All agents of education are affected in these circumstances: the education team, students, family, infrastructure, the school environment, curriculum and the strategies delivered by teachers. According to a UNICEF report of 2014, it is estimated that “approximately 57 million children of primary school age did not attend school in 2011 and more than 13 million of those children are in the countries, directly or indirectly affected by armed conflicts (UNICEF report 2015). It happens although decades ago United Nations agencies and other international non-governmental organisations began to prioritize education as an essential component of humanitarian response due to the recognition that education can play a critical role in facilitating stability, imparting life-saving messages, establishing support systems among other reasons.
Education in Kashmir
Due to closure of schools, the academic session suffers badly to the extent that it causes irreparable loss of study and tuitions to the students. Due to the frequent days off, the children then become accustomed to violence and so on.
It is because their young minds get easily preoccupied with bloodshed, violence, arrests, stone pelting, killing of their peers and so on and they don’t find the violence free environment where they could settle. ( I have even seen many children around rejoicing whenever the JRL calls for a shutdown because that day would then be a holiday!). Moreover, exposure to violence and armed conflict erodes the quality of education attained by children of conflict areas like Kashmir.
A good number of working days are lost due to the conditions that obtain in Kashmir which results in non-creation of adequate infrastructural facilities in various institutions and slow execution of new projects/works in the valley.
Conflicts can lower the returns of investment on education, as the underlying supply and demand for education changes. The supply of quality education is reduced, for instance school buildings get destroyed or occupied by armed forces.
A catastrophic by-product of the ongoing conflict in Kashmir has its effect directly on its education system. Moreover, students find themselves, through no fault of their own, not only displaced but lacking the opportunities for proper schooling and thus denied a chance to effectively learn and develop the necessary skills to become fully functional members of society. As we all know, education provides students with the necessary skills to develop into productive members of society. Unfortunately, in Kashmir, students struggle to find a good and violence free environment where they could settle. As a result, for these students the possibility of finding a gainful employment as adults becomes increasingly challenging and difficult. Because of the conditions here, students are denied the opportunity to develop necessary social and mental development skills that facilitate growth. In addition, we all know that students in conflict zones (like Kashmir) face severe trauma through the loss of family members in violence which directly affects their studies and thus the overall education system.
Conflictual conditions can have a devastating effect on the development of the brain and all functions mediated by this complex organ. Posttraumatic stress responses have been documented in students who have suffered traumatic loss of their parents, siblings, or their fellow batch mates. The more severe psychological reactions are associated with variables such as a higher degree of exposure to life threat, direct physical injury witnessing a death or injury, closer proximity to the battles fought on field (Like nowadays stone pelting, encounters between govt forces and militants), history of prior traumas. So, amid all this the education sector suffers badly.
The hopes that the world would become a more peaceful place with the end of the Cold War have not yet been fulfilled. On the contrary, the number and intensity of violent conflicts has seen a further increase; violent conflicts, wars and civil strife unsettle the developing nations in particular. The extensive damage, as well as the subsequent social and economic costs in the wake of violent conflicts, is a source of concern that the global development objectives which the international community set itself at the beginning of the new millennium cannot be met. This also affects education-oriented development objectives, such as those agreed upon within the framework of the “Education for All’ process.
In recent years development cooperation has increasingly assumed the role of promoting measures for civil crisis prevention and peace-keeping. Less emphasis is placed on the role to be attached to education within the framework of development cooperation in order to prevent crises and establish peace. The contribution which education can make to promoting individual and collective peace competence is only to be found on the margins of the majority of plans of action and guidelines in national and international development policy- above all there is a lack of a systematically developed, coherent concept for conflict sensitive education assistance.
The issue of constructive handling of heterogeneity, which has to be reflected institutionally as well as conceptually with regard to education access and curricula, goes beyond the conventional horizons of classical peace education. As there seems no end to conflict in Kashmir, the development of a conflict-sensitive education system therefore requires a holistic approach, which takes account of the potentially constructive and destructive impact of education in all its manifestations. The transmission of education system in post-war societies like Kashmir can only be successful if there is a critical and uncompromising analysis of the destructive potential of the prior education system, its curricula and common educational practices.
—(The author is a student of Economics in Aligarh Muslim University, UP and hails from Shopian, Kashmir. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)