Education sector has completely collapsed writes Bashir Assad. Despite opening of schools, the teaching work has not resumed. The tragedy is that civil society is tight lipped on it.
“The Education sector has completely collapsed in Kashmir since August 5. The divisional administration has ordered the reopening of the schools more than twice, but students did not turn up. In fact, the teachers did not turn up either in significant numbers. According to reports, the administration at district levels is conducting meeting with officials of the Education Department, trying to impress upon them to facilitate the return of students to their schools. Despite the efforts of the administration, schooling in Kashmir Valley has not resumed. Kashmir media is reporting on this issue on daily basis. But the civil society in Kashmir is tightlipped over this important issue which involves the future of millions of school kids. Can we, as a society, afford to ignore this vital issue concerning the future of our tender generations? This question does not seem to have occurred to us at the collective social level. The highly disturbing trait that has taken roots in our society as a whole since last two or three decades is that we have been compromising the education of the children of the larger sections of our society for political. Whenever there is some kind of upheaval in Kashmir, the schooling of children is the first casualty. It takes months for the socio-called political leadership and through them the mobs ruling the streets – to allow students to resume classes. This administration too finds it convenient to deal with law and order by ordering the closure of schools and colleges over the slightest provocations. So in the conflict theatre of Kashmir, the contending forces are on the same page as far as the education of our children is concerned.”
Reasons of silence:
“The question is: why is there no hue and cry over the closure of schools and colleges for last two months approximately? Why is our society silent on this issue? There are two obvious reasons behind their silence. One, many of them are not directly impacted by the collapse of education sector because their children are studying outside Kashmir. They are fortunate as their children get quality education far away from the conflict theatre of Kashmir. Two, there is a real fear factor. Kashmiris face clear and present danger to life and property from those who believe in violence. But we must admit that complacency is also a factor for our silence. There are many among us express themselves on diverse issues – political, social and economic. But for the satisfaction of our egos, we are collectively endangering the future of millions of our children. Our hypocrisy must be called out. In fact, hypocrites justify closure of schools and education institutions across Kashmir Valley. In 2008, we did not allow the schooling of our children for three months. Against in 2010, schooling remained suspended for two months. In 2012 and 2016, there were prolonged strikes and schooling was not allowed for about four months. In 2012, some opinion makers and journalists courageously questioned the separatist leadership over the issue of education. They demanded that education should be exempted from the strike calendars issued by the separatists on weekly basis.”
Cost of strikes:
“In 2016, schools and colleges remained closed for about four months. That time, there was no one to question the madness of denying education to our children. At the same time, we could not achieve anything from out violent strikes. In fact we lost much in the process. We snatched the livelihood of the poor, deprived our children of education, and inflicted untold miseries on the people of Kashmir valley. This time around, the snapping of mobile and internet services is the excuse for forcing the students to stay away from normal schooling. Of course mobile and internet facilities are vital for communication and information. The government has actually snatched our means of communication as well as information by snapping the mobile and internet services. But the fact remains that mobile and internet services alone cannot determined whether or not we should allow the schooling of our children.”
Cost of Political Rhetoric:
“Let us call a spade a spade. The truth is the people who are on the forefront of constructing narratives are least bothered about the education of our children. They are complicit, they are scared or they are not directly impacted. Self-inflicting responses to political developments or law and order situations has become a new normal in Kashmir. We choose to remain silent due to the risk involved in speaking truth to the powers that be. Or we have developed vested interests in the dysfunction of the education sector. Yes, we cannot ignore the enormity of the August 5 decision. At the same time, we have no right to snatch the right to education from the children of the large majority – mostly the underprivileged Kashmiris – on the pretest that our mobile phones and internet services have been withdrawn.”
“If we can justify the closure of schools and businesses over the last three decades in response to anything and everything, we must also explain why nothing was achieved by the same. No, we don’t have the right to destroy the future of our children on the political rhetoric of ‘future of Kashmir’. That said, one should not expect any good from the people who drive the narratives on either side of the political divide in Kashmir. They are not the masters. They are simply faithful extensions of their masters, who remote control them from a distant place. Yes, we Kashmiris have sentiments. Our sentiments are hurt. We are hurt. But let us not allow anyone to exploit our sentiments for too long, lest we cease to exist.”
[Courtesy: daily Greater Kashmir, Srinagar, Kashmir, October 15, 2019].
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