“Knowledge is power” is the famous quote attributed to Francis Bacon, an instrumental figure in the West’s Renaissance and Scientific Enlightenment. We have heard it in our childhood while we were in school. Knowledge empowers a person to make sense of what is happening around and to take control of one’s life. Although the quote contains a lot of truth but there is other side to it. There is a reciprocal relationship also between knowledge and power. Power produces and controls knowledge. Knowledge and power are inseparable. Knowledge is often controlled by the various powerful institutions of a given society.
Coming home, the relationship between power and knowledge is more evident in Kashmir valley than perhaps anywhere else in the country. This reflects in the overall education scenario of Kashmir valley, more particularly in its school level education system. The frequent closure of the educational institutes by the administration citing the security reasons has been a serious issue facing the education system of the state.
As the various coaching institutes in Srinagar and Anantnag among others districts of the valley were ordered by the police forces to close their educational institutes till 26 Jan, 2019, this is a fine example to understand how political knowledge could be. The owners of the coaching institutes communicated to news agencies that they didn’t received any formal order from the authorities but instead it was a verbal order from concerned police officers..
Among the three primary parties in the loop- the administration, the coaching institutes and the students-, it is the students that are the worst victims. Since the institutes have been closed for ten days, students are losing not only their precious time but also the huge amount that they have already paid as fee to their respective institutes. Most of the students enrolled in the coaching are preparing for various competitive exams like NEET, the exams are very near. The loss of class work will put an extra pressure on the students and teachers alike to complete the syllabus on time that might have negative impacts on the mental health of the students. Parents of the students are in worse situation as their hard earned money gets wasted and dreams for their children are broken.
Although the closure of the coaching centres has been ordered for security reasons, there are some crucial questions that can be raised. How are educational institutes responsible for security problems? If they are, is their closure an appropriate step to solve the issue? These are the questions that need to be asked.
The intervention of police authorities in the affairs of the education system and the randomness and ambiguity of the procedure presses for an in depth analysis of the functioning of our education system. The absence of any formal order from the Education Department of the state puts a question mark on the competence and credibility of the Directorate of School Education, Kashmir which is the concerned body in this regard. The failure of DSEK will not only reflect its incompetence, it will also result in the loss of trust of the education fraternity of the valley in the body.
Moreover, the silence of the management bodies of private coaching centres of the valley is of much concern. Although the owners of some coaching centres have questioned the move, they have not been as vocal as they were in the past when their own interests were in danger.
So, the issue should be a concern for all of us. It should be debated in the media platforms in order to protect the politicization of our education system and save the careers of students.
—The author, currently a Research Scholar at the department of Convergent Journalism, Central University of Kashmir, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org