How Covid19 Lockdown Is Pushing Kashmir Children Into Educational Jeopardy?

by Aabid Mushtaq and Tajamul Islam

Authorities apply the straitjacket rule without having regard to the age of students studying in higher or professional courses who are much able to follow CAB as against the students of lower classes.

Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. The impact of conflict on students of all levels is often disgustingly overlooked. Education in such times can be a sustainable tool for achieving prosperity, harmony and development in the region. Education is a way out to resolve all the problems and means of instilling hope and positivity as well as offering the occasion to the distressed youth who are engulfed in between war and peace.

The incessant lockdown on education started way before the Covid19 in Kashmir; it began post-August 5, 2019, when Article 370 was abrogated.

This all began to have its worst impacts on students, educationally.  The education sector is the worst hit during all the unrests, which time and again pushed Kashmir’s young generation to more backwardness. The conflict has become an evil, which has devastatingly shambled the education edifices.

Closing Education 

The closing down of the educational sector in Kashmir is the most common practice of administration without providing for any compensatory measures and systematic alternatives, which is clearly against the good governance and basic rights of the students as guaranteed under the Indian constitution.

There is a high academic cost for students’ pay due to long periods of closures. Breaks in education faced by the children of Kashmir are volatile and unprecedented, enclosed by fear, trauma which ultimately leads to depression.  The government doesn’t realize its duties and instead becomes the main detriment for learning and development making it difficult for students to access education for regular classrooms and through online portals.

As per official figures, since 1990 Kashmir has lost significant working days due to conflict. As reported, 207 working days were lost in 1991, 112 in 2010, 130 in 2016 (accounting for nearly 60 per cent of total working days). Research suggests that Covid19 has varied impacts based on age and maturity, but there is no segregation of students who could attend offline classes and online classes based on their age and maturity to follow Covid Appropriate Behaviour.

One Rule 

Authorities apply the straitjacket rule without having regard to the age of students studying in higher or professional courses who are much able to follow CAB as against the students of lower classes. This was never taken into consideration and education is still in a shock and continues to remain with no seriousness on the part of people at the helm.

How long this will continue in the era of the digital divide and digital literacy over the multiple basic problems that our region faces for a long time. From August 5, 2019, until these ongoing times, the offline education is far away and still off, the educational edifices are closed down- the only sector which is being targeted with ill-conceiving in the pretext of covid19 prone places, the most disturbing and devastating on the part of the administrations in Kashmir.

University of Kashmir

In the view of the emerging third wave and the fear of further loss to education Secretary-General of the World Health Organization, said that “2022 cannot be yet another year of disrupted education. No effort should be spared to get children’s education back on track and further the schools must be the last places to close and the first to open in the crises of covid19”.

The most strange thing here is that the administration allowed the new year parties, the political meetings and rallies, the musical shows and such other unchecked flowing of people from outside the valley- to generate the economy without considering the issue of raising of covid19 and therefore to tackle the fault of such inconsequential events declared the educational sector as the main alarming of Covid19 hence closed down without alternative strategies and prior notices to the educational institutions which ultimately is against the principle of natural justice and arbitrariness which indeed is a grave concern.

Internet Rights

On January 12, 2020, the Supreme Court declared that access to the internet is protected under article 19 of the Indian constitution. A three-judge bench of the apex court affirmed that the right to freedom of speech and expression, as guaranteed to all its citizens under the first section of that article, covers the right to go online.

The same was declared by the UNHRC that, net access as a fundamental right in 2016 and it reads as ‘Nobody’s voice can be arbitrarily muzzled and so online self-expression can’t be barred”.  There are thousands of poor students who don’t afford Smartphones to exercise such a right, which is a constitutionally guaranteed right hence executive orders of switching to online education casts a duty upon them to survey and find such students and distribute and provide them such gadgets in order to make their decision valid otherwise is unconstitutional.

Open Air Online Class without a teacher on a hillock in Lachipora Wildlife Sanctuary. This is the place where students from a number of villages go daily to manage a better 2G internet access. KL Image: Sheikh Mustafa

The importance of education and its constitutional stand were derived from the few judicial decisions. The very first case of the supreme court in which the right to education was declared a fundamental right was the Mohini Jain V State of Karnataka (AIR 1992, SC 1858). In this case, the judge bench deciding on constitutional of the practice of charging capitation held that;

 “The right to education flows directly from the right to life. The right to life and dignity of an individual can’t be assured unless it is accompanied by the right to education”.

It was followed by a five-judge bench in JP Unnikrishnan V State of Andhra Pradesh (AIR 1993, SC(1) 645) it has been held that …it would be incumbent upon the state to provide facilities and opportunities to the children for educational purposes and to prevent their being deteriorated educationally in any case or situations. “The Right to education further means that a citizen has a right to call upon the state to provide educational facilities to him.

In Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Education VKS Gandhi (AIR 1991, SC) Right to education at the secondary stage was held to be a fundamental right. The same right has been intercepted in the Indian constitution under article 21-A as a fundamental right to give it a justifiable shape in order to make the state responsible and protector in times of its violation.

Universally Accepted 

Apart from these guaranteed rights by the Indian constitution to its citizens, there are few prominent organizations around the world striving for the promotion of Rights to Education, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nation children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Bank (WB) and International Labor Organization (ILO). The right to education has therefore long been recognized by these international organizations as encompassing not only access to educational provision but also the obligation to eliminate hurdles to make education easily accessible to the children.

There are a large number of human rights problems, which can’t be solved unless the right to education is addressed as the key to unlocking other human rights. The right to education is clearly acknowledged in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted in 1948, which states that “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stage Article 26, Book of Malcolm Shaw on international and human rights). These diverse domestic, as well as international rights on education, get mischievously unobserved in Kashmir.

Aabid Mushtaq, Tajamul Islam

From clampdown on August 5, 2019, to lockdown imposed nationwide in the wake of Covid19, every policy and strategy of the administrative bodies in Kashmir in relation to the educational institutions are unconstitutional and arbitrary, which led to the gross root violations of basic human rights of students.

The future of Kashmir children is in jeopardy, it is a war on prosperity and the existence of a state, more simply a war on humanity.

(Authors are students of law at the school of law, University of Kashmir. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)

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