The three months of unrest have taken a toll on almost all sectors of life in Kashmir. Impact on the education sector is one of the major worries, as a major chunk of academic calendar has been lost to curfews and shutdowns.
From kinder garden to the university level, everything is affected. The separatists had suggested voluntary tuitions in the localities to overcome the loss, but the concept could hardly take off, while the unrest continues.
There are, however, a few examples of individuals or groups taking initiatives to help the students.
Shahid Ahmad, an engineer, is busy these days giving mathematics lessons to higher secondary students, for free, in his Bagh-i-Mehtab locality. A significant number of students from adjoining areas are attending the hour long classes in the afternoon.
A pass out of Regional Engineering College, (now NIT) Shahid has a degree in Electronics and Communication. He has a full time job too. But he says he could not hold back himself to be mere spectator of the plight of students. “I decided to hold classes because of students’ sufferings” said Shahid.
Shahid says that expert in different subjects should come forward to help the students as there is immense need of such initiatives in current circumstances.
“People who are well aware of the subjects should come forward and contribute to the society,” said Shahid
The students benefitted by his initiative are pleased.
“We are extremely happy by the initiative of Shahid Sir. We wish that in other subjects as well we get the same input,” says Irfan Ahmad, a student of Tyndale Biscoe School.
To ensure that more and more students are benefited, Shahid placed an advertisement in a local daily. He is positive about the progress.
“In case of class 11th, 50 percent of syllabus is to be completed and of class 12, around four units are yet to be completed,” he informs proudly.
Apart from individual efforts, some local committees have also come up with initiatives.
Some existing relief committees have decided to start the community schools to cater to the students of particular areas, irrespective of which schools they go to.
Dialgam, village in south Kashmir’s Islamabd district has set an example. The management of four private schools, Public Model School Dialgam, Hanfia Institute Dialgam, Crescent School Dialgam and Moral High Educational institute Dialgam in consensus with the Iqbal Committee Dialgam decided to run their institutions and accommodate other students of the village who otherwise belong to Government Schools or some other Schools outside village. The class work is going on up to the 10th standard.
The students belonging to other schools have been given open choice to join any one of the four schools as per their convenience. The classes are taken together of all the students except in case where the books differ.
Separate classes are arranged to fulfill that need. Around 15 post graduate degree holders of the village have volunteered to help higher secondary students and also to assist the school authorities in case the need arises.
The committee consulted the community elders besides general public to ensure the smooth functioning of the school. In view of the volatile situation, the meeting decided to keep these community schools open from 7:30am to 11:30 am.
“The system is running smoothly. The timing is relatively peaceful. We have qualified youth with us to help in managing the affairs”, said Waseem Hassan, Member of Iqbal Committee spearheading the initiative.
Waseem wants to move ahead and aware people of other villages and convince them to start community schools.
“We will inform people of other villages to initiate community schools to help the badly hit education sector,” he said.
Realising the need Gousia Relief Committee, Umar Colony Lal bazaar has identified a building to start a community school for the purpose. Qualified people including professors have shown their willingness to participate.
“In next week we will start operations,” says Muneer Hussain, president of the committee.
The teachers chosen are experts in their field some of who have rendered services for many years. The committee has decided to continue even if the school work resumes in the valley in order to recuperate the loss.
“We will take every possible measure to help our dear ones of all ages,” said Hussain.
Besides community schools some institutions have come up with alternatives to avoid the loss. The Jehlum Valley Public School Yaripora Kulgam started its study centres. The school is running five study centres in areas of Katapora, Sonigam, Bugam, Yamrech and Kadar. The step was taken in view of the inaccessibility to the main school in the present situation for both students and teachers. This has been instrumental in running the institution without any halt.
“The loss of our students is barely 10 percent,” says Nisar Ahmad owner of the school, who also is discharging duties of a teacher.
Another example of same nature is from the Mentors Modern Institute, Aarwani Bejbehara. The school has started study centres in Kokergund, Shirpura, Hasanpora, and Aarwani. The teachers and students have joined the centres as per their convenience.
The need for community schools has emerged due to consistent unrest in the valley which has already entered its third month. The initiatives, however, are so far limited to few pockets, and on a larger level, most students are unable to compensate their losses.
Students and parents are also worried with the government maintaining that the examinations will be held as per schedule.