From poverty to penury, illiteracy to ignorance, and self-sufficiency to dependence Kashmir has seen it all. Entangled into an unfortunate political instability coupled with unnecessary sectarianism, our valley is going from bad to worse. Whether the waves change or not as is being sloganeered, whether the promise of the restoration of dignity is kept or not we, as the people, have to change. We cannot escape it and if we do, the already tough times will go tougher. Kashmir is not a financially challenged state nor does it lack resources (human and natural) but still we are too dependent on others. It beggars belief that Kashmir does not have a single Private University which could accommodate students who otherwise have to spend a lot of money and amid trepidation move out for higher education. It also beggars belief that we do not have a single private academic college, a single private medical college and so on. Do we not have the people here who can invest in education and, at least, make this valley selfsufficient in terms of education? Yes, we have but it is not their fault only.
The historical colleges of Kashmir are set to become heritage sites, the way they are being run. We have colleges which have been established immediately after 1947 but still they have failed to emerge as the deemed universities despite the fact that they possess good space and are worth up gradation. In other regions, it does not take a school that much time in getting upgraded into a college and then a deemed university. But in our Kashmir, nobody thinks about it perhaps. The regulations that have been set are so lengthy and verbose that one feels exhausted and lost. This is not all. There is more than meets the eye. As is said that the grass always looks greener from the other side, the administration here instead of controlling the private institutions commands them. It wants the private run educational institutions adapt their methodology and thus cripple them too as that methodology has aged beyond age. Having served as a teacher, I have seen so many vague orders and commandments that are thrust upon the private educational institutions and thus harming their integrity and quality. Although, it is must that accountability has to be there but it should not look or be like meddling. It is hidden from none that private educational institutions are performing better than the government run institutions. So, logically it is the government run institutions who should tread the track of their counterparts. There is no shame in it. But unfortunately, in order to keep their administrative hauteur intact, they prefer not doing what they ought to do. All said and done, the question that remains is how to make our valley educationally self-sufficient. Many a time we have axed our own feet but put the blame on others. In Kashmiri language there is a famous proverb “KERMO KERMO PANNNI ATH FERMO” (I was not harmed by what others did but by my own self). In order to achieve the goal stated above, following steps must be taken:
Entrepreneurs and businesspersons must be encouraged to invest in education especially higher education and ease the protocols and procedures;
The historical colleges must be given autonomous status. Let’s not overburden the mother University of Kashmir;
There needs to be a fixed term plan wherein how these changes are to be brought about can be chalked out;
All stakeholders must work in unison leaving behind all their differences. Let’s pledge to take our education sector to the next level. Let’s not just say; let’s do it. Let no student here feel the need to move out. Let the space here not shrink!
—The author is a former teacher and presently works as a Banking Associate in the Jammu and Kashmir Bank BU Choora and can be reached