Elite driven!

Like air rescue teams who handpicked victims during recent floods Omar’s cabinet too fell for elite trap while deciding future of students across Kashmir. Syed Asma talks to private school owners and educationists to understand what it means to defer academic session by six-months 

A scene of Kothi Bagh Girls Hr Sec School. Pic: Saima Bhat
A scene of Kothi Bagh Girls Hr Sec School. Pic: Saima Bhat

‘Education can’t wait!’ is a slogan that educationists are echoing in the Valley. Though the thought is supported by all alike, apart from a few elite schools, but the government chose to go with the minority- the minority of elites.

After the devastating floods when the cabinet minister met for the first time, they came up with a ‘catastrophic’ decision, educationists assert. The state ordered – all the examinations up to under-graduation are to be postponed till March 2015. Without putting forward any valid reasons, the cabinet directed the institutions to follow.

A few hours before the Chief Minister passed the order, the concerned bureaucrats along with the Minister, Tara Chand, had decided that examinations would be taken either in later October or early November.  “It is nothing but lack of co-ordination between the state and the bureaucrats. For their personal benefits, they are making the children suffer,” says a member of Private school United Front wishing anonymity.

Educationists term the decision as catastrophic, mindless, and irrational for the students.

G R Malik, an educationist opines that the unnecessary delay in the examinations will induce an element of non-serious attitude among the students which would last for at least five months. “The student would be no longer interested in studies.”

Seconding Malik’s thoughts parents also share the same opinion. “My son no more studies nor does he listen to me anymore. He has put the books under lock and says will open them in March 2015,” says Shugufta Banday whose son studies in a missionary schools in Srinagar.

Some parents even accuse that the reason for delaying the exams is that in the recent floods the elites’ have sent their families to safer places in India and won’t get them back until the threat of the epidemic is over.

The cabinet order has disturbed the on-going schedule of the school which chose to re-open after floods. Most of the schools across the Valley, including the ones in worst hit areas of centre and south Kashmir, chose to re-open after floods. Only a few government schools, private schools like Iqbal Memorial School and the elite missionaries – Mallinson and Tyndale Biscoe School, Burnhall School, Presentation Convent School are yet to open. Even six weeks after the floods, the elite’ schools are yet to resort to their normal work.

“The three missionaries running in the pretext of charities in the valley are not re-opening as they are collecting relief funds from abroad for the damage they had in the floods,” alleged Riyaz Ahmad, whose son studies in one of the missionary schools.

Re-opening after floods, many schools even started conducting the final exams. As the flood had hit the Valley in early September, most of the schools had completed their syllabus and the students were ready to take exams.

“We started the exams in early October but had to stop them after the cabinet order was out,” says a member of managing body of a reputed school in south Kashmir. “We too had students whose books were washed away in the flood but we managed a new set of books and notes for them ourselves.”

He further informs that the suggestions of the two hour meeting between the Director Education, Tariq Ali Mir, and the Minister Education, Tara Chand, was far better than what came out in the cabinet.

In the two hour long meeting, it was suggested that the exams would be taken in late October or early November. Besides, some concessions in the syllabus were also offered.

Talking about the possibility of conducting exams in time Dr Mushtaq Ahmed, President Private School United Front says all schools have not been affected by the floods so asking the schools to postpone exams and deferring new academic session is completely irrational.

“Not more than 10 per cent of the schools have been affected so the rest 90 per cent can run smoothly besides catering to the students of the flood affected schools,” says Dr Mushtaq Ahmed.

A kid sun drying his flood-affected school books.
A kid sun drying his flood-affected school books.

Considering school education as a grave concern, the unaffected private run schools which resumed their work had sent an open invitation to the students of other schools which are yet to re-open.  But the response is not overwhelming. Parents having ‘superiority complex’ are reluctant and feel disgraced to send their wards to the locally run private schools.

G R Malik says if the government would have actually been concerned about the education they would have hired campuses of University of Kashmir or institutions in other unaffected areas and conducted examination on time.

Or else, he adds, the state should come up with a proposal that they would conduct special examination for the students from worst hit areas as was done in 2005 earthquake for the students from Uri.

The cabinet decision of delaying the exams will subdue all the pressures that a student had in mind about his examination, he adds.

Besides, the decision increased the duration of this year’s academic session from 12 months to 17 months; and obviously will reduce the next academic session to mere six months.

Apart from inducing a non-serious attitude in the students it would affect their performance in the competitive examinations as well. “Our fresh batch of students would not be able to appear in this year’s Indian competitive examination as their results would be out by May or June. Their whole academic year is going to get wasted,” says Dr Mushtaq.

G R Malik says that the result sheets of the students would read the session as 2013-2015, “About 80 per cent of our students chose to go out of Valley for studies. They will have to explain the year’s gap in their academic session.”

How would an academic session of only six months help the students is an obvious question that arises and the government has not thought about it.

“For now only the examinations are postponed. It is not yet decided if the state would continue with Oct-Nov session or would shift to March-April session permanently,” says Tara Chand, the state education minister.

Dr Mushtaq runs Scholar’s School, in Natipora. The institution was submerged in 17 ft of water for more than a week but now is running smoothly.

“When we single-handedly could manage to clean the premises of the school why can’t an established government clean a few damaged schools,” says Dr Mushtaq.

Initial figures suggest that 2500 schools (partially and fully damaged) suffered a loss of rupees 180 crore in the recent floods.

When asked why schools that are ready to function are made to suffer, director education, Tariq Ali Mir, arrogantly responds, “To which area do you belong? Don’t you know how much floods have devastated areas in Anantnag or Srinagar? So we had to delay the exams.”

The makeshift offices and hampered mobile network helps the government authorities to get away with their lazy attitude.

Six weeks after Floods:  

Lanes smeared with mud and silt. Broken wooden furniture, books and official records taken out of filth and dirt is kept outside in the shy sunlight of October. It’s the premises of a Government Girls Higher secondary school, Kothibagh.  Same is the scene in any government run school or college in Srinagar which has been hit by the floods. The mud in the lanes and corridors in past 42 days has hardened so much so that while walking over it the layer breaks off. The edifices in the institution have been in water for almost a week and now its premises stinks. It has been a long time since the offices resumed in these colleges but no government authority has come to check whether the buildings are safe or not, though cracks in a few of them are vivid.

Besides, no assistance has been provided to clean the premises. The irony is that the faculty including lecturers, Assistant Professors and Professor had to help clean the campus.


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