Gender and Education in Jammu and Kashmir: Cross Sectional Trends

Gender and Education in Jammu and Kashmir: Cross Sectional Trends
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By Dr. Waqar ul Nisa,

Privately published, Jay Kay Books, Srinagar, India, 2018. 192pp.
ISBN 978-81-934190-3-8, US$. 20.99

Review by Dr. Syed Javeid Iqbal Kamili

“Gender and Education in Jammu and Kashmir: Cross Sectional Trends” is a book that has elucidated in plain and clear words the nature of education in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir has a diverse typology ranging from rough terrains to scenic beauty and the political statuesque has been as vulnerable to instability as the geographical. It becomes significant in the political unrest to explore the impact on education from time to time in effect to mobilize change(s). This study focuses on the impact on the education system in Jammu and Kashmir in the light of paradigm shifts and policy recommendations with an aim to analyze the growth of female education at school and the university level.

[epq-quote align=”align-right”]Academic Book Review[/epq-quote]The author, Dr. Waqar ul Nisa, is a young scholar actively involved in research and teaching. Presently working in Government College for Women, M.A Road, Srinagar as contractual lecturer, she has published a number of research articles in various national and international journals and has presented research papers in a number of national and international conferences.

This book was inaugurated on 17th July 2018 in Government College of Education, Srinagar (Institute of Advanced Studies in Education) in presence of the luminary personalities, scholars and academicians.

The book is divided into two broad sections spread over seven chapters for the facilitation of the analysis of facts. The presentation in section one is done according to the reign of the ruling monarchs. The book begins with the introduction of a land that has a diverse typology ranging from rough terrains to scenic beauty and the political statuesque has been as vulnerable to instability as the geographical. Its emergence as the modern state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1846 located in dual relationship with Dogra Maharaja’s feudal exposition and the colonial fringes of British Empire was a result of the treaties by the British. For centuries, ethnic groups headed by princes, or maharajas, maintained sovereignty.

Only gradually under British colonial rule did the idea of Jammu and Kashmir State come into sight as a distinct political entity. It came into existence in 1846, following the first Anglo-Sikh war of 1845-46, with Maharaja Gulab Singh as its first ruler. The state was not a personal creation of Gulab Singh but was rather the outcome of an agreement between him and the representatives of the British East India Company.

Section one comprises of five chapters which reflects the overall scenario of Education in the state of Jammu and Kashmir with special emphasis on female education and section two shows the details of trend analysis. Chapter first and second highlight the importance of education. Education is simply to humanize human beings. This is a crucial definition since people do not understand what education is. In fact, people see education as merely just a formal activity. They tend to ignore the basic concept of education itself. The author in this chapter reveals that literacy and education are the two most important indicators of development of a nation. By educating an individual, we attempt to give him some desirable knowledge, understanding, skills, interests, attitudes and critical thinking. That is, he(she) acquires knowledge of history, geography, arithmetic, languages and sciences and so on.

A literate person is one who has acquired all the essential knowledge and skills which enables him to engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning in his or her group and community and whose attention in reading, writing and numeracy make it possible to use these skills towards his/her own and his or her community’s development. It is clear that literacy equips a person with the power of rational thinking, a power which recognizes no discrimination based on gender, language, creed, race, colour and heritage. Against this backdrop from the advent of human species, with or without schools, one keeps on taking education in some or the other way.

It is a basic necessity for humans to be educated. Female education, in particular, is crucial for the sustenance of the society. There cannot be educated people without educated women. This book shows an increasing trend of women towards attaining education in Jammu and Kashmir State which is depicted from the figures which the author has gathered during her research on women education in the State. The author also has contemplated that schooling is or can be education (notwithstanding the critique of Ivan lllich), but the education is much more than schooling. The perspectives of the category: teachers, parents and counsellors that analyzed the factors outside the school have given occasion to present some newer forms of interpretation in this study.

Dr. Waqar ul Nisa , in the third chapter, has presented the historical perspective of women education in Jammu and Kashmir state. The author divulges that with the advent of Buddhism, Kashmir formed the centre of scholars and writers during 3rd century AD. She observes that a striking feature of the political history in Kashmir during the Hindu period is the important and sometimes decisive role played by the women in the affairs of the state. During the Muslim Period, the author mentions that women’s education seems to have been widely spread among well-to-do ladies who were very cultured. They opened schools, build monasteries and mosques and took an active interest in public affairs as is evident from the career of Sura, Hayat Khatoon, Gul Khatoon and Haba Khatoon. The women of lower classes however were illiterate, for they had neither the leisure to attend schools nor the means to employ private tutors. But as the life of Habba Khatoon, the Queen of Yusuf Shah shows, the opportunities were not wanting even for peasant girls who were keen to acquire knowledge.

Education does not seem to have been widespread among the women of medieval Kashmir but there are instances of women as well-to-do families receiving education. Further the author reveals more facts about the conditions of women education that could hardly improve during the regime of Afghans and Sikhs in the valley. The author has made a significant observation that a single school had not been opened in the capital of Kashmir during 1846. However, during the same period Christians were engaged in missionary activities in Srinagar and its vicinities. These activities included establishment of missionary schools in the valley of Kashmir in a bid to make the progress of acculturation easy in Kashmir.

Quite contrary to this the Dogra rulers wanted to keep the people of Kashmir in the darkness of ignorance so as to continue their yoke to the next of Kashmiri people. The progress of women education revealed by Dr. Waqar ul Nisa is seen during the late eighteenth century, significantly Moulvi Ghulam Rasool Shah of Mirwaiz family was convinced that his community would become socially, economically and educationally backward unless a vigorous educational scheme embracing all aspects of development was introduced in his community. This was to create a balance between modern and religious education. He envisioned that Islamic education was important but felt the need to cope up with the modern systems introduced in the education. Later the school was upgraded to a High School within four or five years and became popular as Islamia High School.

Dr. Waqar ul Nisa has made significant observations about the educational distress during the early seventies. She reveals that during this period, strikes, agitations, boycott of classes followed by closing of educational institutions for long durations was quite frequent during late sixties and early seventies. Further she observed that a number of causes seemed to be responsible for student unrest. Restricted job opportunities created a sense of social despondency and economic insecurity in the youth. As planning was defective, the educational programmes were not tailored according to the economic requirements as a result of which the committee was to make economic development meaningful to solve the problems of unemployment and economic security among the youth. Expansion of higher education was taking place as education was free up to university level; with the result most of the educational institutions became overcrowded, ill-equipped, ill-staffed and ill-administered.

Undue stress was laid on the quantitative against the qualitative aspects of education, due to which free education was restricted to primary education only. Being a sensitive area, the propaganda about ‘political uncertainty’ in the state, is a contributory factor to student unrest. Education has been considered as a component of change, modernization and development. The Central and the State Governments have appointed different commissions from time to time with a hope to improve education quantitatively as well as qualitatively giving special reference to female education is revealed by the author in this chapter.

In chapter four of this book on Gender Education, the author reveals facts about the difficulties and problems faced by the institutions and individuals particularly women for attaining education during the turmoil. Conflicts are long lasting aspects of human behaviour and social relationships. Conflicts always exist in the human world with certain degree of levels and vary across the regions, sub-regions, countries. In political terms, conflict refers to wars, violent clashes, revolutions or other struggles which involve the use of force as in case of armed conflict. The impact of conflict is complex and wide ranging and is experienced by people of all ages. The armed conflict in Kashmir started in 1989 has inflicted a devastating impact on the well-being of the civilian population particularly the women. In this chapter, Dr. Waqar ul Nisa reveals the facts of conflict on female education. The author states that due to political instability which entirely collapsed the optimistic thought of the students in 1990s with the burning of a large, fully equipped auditorium formed in 1960s. Schools and colleges were targeted and the libraries and laboratories went up in flames. In such a vexed situation students were still able to sit in the examination. For the countless widows of the conflict, education of their child is their top priority; irrespective of their economic status they want to provide quality education to their children is an encouraging sign towards educational dimension observed by Dr. Waqar ul Nisa. Kashmiri women have gone through immense turbulence and torture in the last two decades. The strength inside her has proved herself in a healthy superior circumstance and is better in every aspect especially education. The conservative patriarchal ideology of Kashmir struggle cast women as grieving mothers, martyrs’ mothers and raped women. The ordinary woman has forged survival strategies for their family by entering into the negotiations of power with the security forces and administration of their rescue and safety of their families by acting as a mode of resistance.

In chapter five which is the last chapter of section one, the author brings out the facts and figures about the instructional set up of education in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Dr. Waqar ul Nisa has expressed that educational policies and schemes are an essential part of any educational system and serve to establish the framework for school and university operations, helping to set effective procedures and governing practices. In order for policies to be effective, it is critical for policymakers to look beyond their own education institutions practices to gain an appreciation of the scope and treatment of policy topics at other education institutions both nationally and internationally. Dr. Waqar ul Nisa further expresses that all the States and Union Territories in India are not equally advanced or backward in educational matters. Not only educational enrollments at different levels differ from place to place but also other measures of educational development, such as variety of educational institutions, number of institutions per inhabitant, physical facilities within institutions and so on is vastly different in different areas of the country.

Such wide disparity sometimes makes the adoption of centrally-designed policies almost impossible in certain areas. Pre-designed policies formulated outside a State and found quite suitable for implementation in many parts of the country may prove to be hopelessly unsuitable for a particular state or union territory. In Jammu and Kashmir, a good number of institutions have either been created or upgraded in the recent past without paying adequate attention to the required infrastructure. As it appears from the policies and schemes of education launched by India along with the state government the number of educational institutions is increasing day by day, with the result there has been an increase in enrollment of students in these institutions leading the state towards universalization of education actually “producing a large number of literates but not adequately educated people with rigid attitudes towards life and work”.

Institutions are busy in making people literate; parents are busy in making their children literate and government is busy enough in spreading literacy; but all are far behind being educated. Being educated and being literate are two different things. The author says that being educated depends on how one conducts in different situations and how one behaves in society. Education in the real sense should prepare child for complete life. It should produce well adjusted, prosperous and balanced personalities. The education we impart needs an overhaul, among other things it has to be job-oriented, creative and productive is pointed out by the author.

In section two, Dr. Waqar ul Nisa has illustrated a detailed trend analysis in terms of participation of women in Srinagar district. The sole aim of presenting this work is to reach to vast number of people, students and prospective research scholars with a lot of useful information which otherwise might not be easily available to them. Also, this work will throw light on the trend that follows the past and goes unnoticed by researchers. It has been mentioned that “the data from various sources have over-lapped; especially of primary school stage and middle school stage because class-wise and age-wise enrollment figures were available in a limited form, classes VI-VIII being included sometimes in elementary education and at other times in middle school education”.

The non availability of data has been mentioned twenty-five years back due to which meager research work has been carried out in this field. There is a need to realize the importance of the collection, analysis and storage of data on the educational system because educational data are very vital in the assessment of growth and progress of educational system that helps to plan adequately for the future. In order to provide transparency in the system, there is a need to ensure statistics unit in every government and private school that should be encouraged to publish annual digest of statistics where age-wise, sex-wise, class-wise and category-wise enrollment figures would be maintained besides class-size and number of teachers for compilation to a states digest of school statistics to be published annually.

The young author Dr. Waqar ul Nisa has attempted to highlight the issues pertaining to education in the state of Jammu and Kashmir warrants praise and appreciation for this humble attempt. I hope the author will continue to write and highlight issues related to our society.

The publisher needs appreciation for publishing this book of a young author Dr. Waqar ul Nisa
I hope this book will draw the attention of those interested in education of Jammu and Kashmir as well as policy makers for its growth and development. Further this endure is a source of inspiration for others to come forward with ideas and opinions to put before the public.

The author is HOD Commerce and Management in G M College who has participated in various conferences within the country and abroad. He can be reached at: javedkamili@gmail.com