Suspension of class work in all education institutions of Jammu and Kashmir till March 31 is the latest administrative order in wake of the coronavirus scare. It may be a necessary precaution but it adds to the miseries of students, who always seem to be worst sufferers of the way things function (or do not function) in Kashmir.
Last year, all the education institutions were ordered shut immediately after the abrogation of Article 370. The schools re-opened after seven months on February 24. No sooner than they opened, the coronavirus outbreak again led to the shutdown of all schools. Our ill-fated students, considered to be the future of our nation, seem to have no future at all.
In Kashmir, students have always been the victims whenever any kind of untoward incident or unrest happens. Shutting down schools seems to be the first response to any situation. The academic session had suffered a huge loss in the year 2016, when schools remained closed for almost seven months (including three months’ winter break). Later, the government decided to grant mass promotion to students up to Class 8 without holding examinations.
Before that as well, mass promotion was given to students in 2014 after a natural calamity in the form of floods hit the valley.
In addition to these lengthy closures of educational institutions, Kashmir has also witnessed frequent closures of schools for weeks at length, each and every year, whenever there happens any incident that causes fear of spiralling into violence.
Apart from the long shutdowns, schools and colleges also stay closed for three months for winter vacations. We have had experiences when heavy snowfall and inclement weather conditions have led to the winter vacations getting extended further.
Under such circumstances, when closure of schools is the first step taken to avoid any untoward incident, what can we expect the students to learn and to become when they grow up?
It is said that well begun is half done. What is badly begun will, therefore, not end well. The start of this year’s academic session has turned out badly and we can only hope that worse does not follow in the rest of the year.
It has been decades since we have been witnessing violence, human rights violations, and now the coronavirus threat is here to add to our woes. All concerned, be it the government or the teachers, students and parents, must take seriously the issue of children’s education. In this universe, every question has an answer, and so the question of what can be done to solve the academic problems in Kashmir must also have some answer. We as a society will have to ponder upon this question and come up with an answer. We just cannot go on closing down schools all the time. It will ruin our future because today’s students are tomorrow’s nation builders.
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