The recent floods have severely impacted the education system in Kashmir threatening career of thousands of students and creating a situation where the entire education sector faces imminent collapse if nothing is done to save it.
According to the preliminary assessment made by Private Schools United Front (PSUF) the private schools have incurred a loss of around Rs 3000-4000 crores. “Our buildings worth crores have been damaged, we have lost our computers, stationery, school data of more than a decade, record of students, school buses, stationery and other valuable assets,” said G N Var, general secretary PSUF. “Some of our schools are fully damaged and we have to start from zero.”
The front said that unlike government schools there is no support to private schools and all are self-made. “Most of our schools were without any insurance cover. We had invested our hard earned money in building up the school infrastructure and now everything is lost,” said Var.
The front said that the private schools have been at the forefront of producing merit holder students who have made their mark all around the world. “This is a crisis situation as it has impacted the sector which used to produce the skilled human resources and help in overall development of a society,” said Var. “It is not only present but our future is also going to be impacted due to this situation.”
The front said that the floods have affected thousands of children who are now left with inability to pay their fee or buy books. “In addition our teachers and support staff would also suffer as the schools-in-losses are unable to pay them salaries,” said Var. “Government teachers have no such problem as they will get their salaries and they can avail advance facility from banks too.”
The front said that the magnitude of crisis is such that resuming of normal school work will take time and government needs to come out with a clear-cut policy to save career of affected students. “Some schools are completely wiped out, others have suffered extensive damage and still others are reeling under after effects of flood waters. In short all such schools are risk prone and unable to resume work,” said Var.
“A new arrangement or policy is the need of the hour. But there are options like government can opt for mass promotion of students say upto class 7th without affecting students ability to appear in national level competitive tests by maintaining status quo for higher classes. Other options can be worked out too if government works with private schools to resolve this crisis.”
Regarding affected students the front asked the government to announce a comprehensive scholarship package. “Scholarships is the best way to help the students as well as institutes. We appeal the government to put aside a part of the relief money for education sector,” said Var. “Students have lost everything. They are the worst sufferers and yet government has not announced a single thing for them.”
The front said that it is the need of hour that government announce a rehabilitation package for private schools, which should judiciously benefit both students and schools, and save such institutes from total collapse. “They have so many departments like social welfare who can work with private schools, identify the affected children and recommend them for scholarship,” said Var. “Plus if they announce the aid for private schools after loss assessment, thousands of teachers and support staff would also get a reprieve who as of now are living in uncertain future.”
The front asked for a monitoring cell to be made of honest officers who will oversee the spending on education sector, as the present lot of officers have lost their trustworthiness. “The problem is that we have no definite data as to how much relief money has come and where it has gone. The first reason for these floods was our inept bureaucracy who left no stone unturned to vandalise the nature, flout its own policies, ignore all warnings and misuse the funds to save Valley. Now the irony is that the same bureaucracy is put in charge of this relief money,” said Var. “Atleast education sector should be taken up seriously and without any political interference.”
The front said that whole world, corporate sector and even concerned citizen from India and elsewhere are ready to help, but are wary of government spending. “We are getting queries from all over the world about how to help. Here government can work on private-public partnership. Let us join hands and set up a separate education sector rehabilitation account where aid from all over the world will pour in exclusively for this sector,” said Var.
“Government can also appeal on its own and we will also start a campaign. We will visit all corporate offices in New Delhi and other cities to appeal for funds under corporate social responsibility. Even tourists from around the world who have been touched by our hospitality are ready to help if only they see a genuine chance.”
The front said that everything can come to normal and we can overcome the crisis provided the government remains committed, have goals in mind and set to work for them. “Unfortunately as of now the government seems to be lost. They don’t know what is happening and how to help, and education sector is at the bottom line of their priority list,” said Var. “We just want education revival to be set aside under a strong committee of honest officers drawn from both administration, private schools and even civil society.”