Kashmir’s Kota

Thanks to private coaching centres Parrypora is host to diverse aspirations generating Rs 200 crore business. Zafar Aafaq reports

Private-Tution-Centre-in-Srinagar
Students waiting outside a coaching centre in Parraypora Srinagar.

It is 5:25 pm and uptown Parrypora locality in Srinagar outskirts is buzzing with students, mostly from Class 12th. Slowly the crowd starts to thin from the main road and swell into the lawns of Kashmir Institute of Excellence (KEI), a private coaching centre preparing students for competitive exams.

Inside the grand building housing KEI, Nisar Ahmad Hajini is speaking on a microphone, delivering lecture to some 300 students. Five minutes later, he looks at his watch and concludes the class. Within minutes he is facing the next batch of 300 students.

The making of Parrypora as Kashmir’s coaching hub started after Prof Mohammad Iqbal Shah, a veteran biology teacher, shifted his base from congested Batamaloo to the sparsely populated Parrypora during early 90s.

His migration was outcome of vacuum left by Kashmiri Pandits, who till then were sole source of private tuition or coaching in the valley, recalls Abdul Qayoom Dar, who used to manage Prof Iqbal’s centre. “One can safely say that Prof Iqbal, with teaching experience of more than 40 years, is the father of private tuition in Parrypora,” claims Dar. “He filled the vacuum.”

The present day Parrypora houses more than 30 big and small coaching centres, working from early morning till late evening hours, catering to some 20 thousand students a day.

“Most of the teachers who teach at private coaching centres in Parrypora now, were students of Prof Iqbal at one point of time,” says Dar. “One of his students Dr Hilal Ahmad Tantray now teaches at Valley Institute of Professional Studies (VIPS).”

During troubling 90s following Prof Iqbal’s steps Dr Nazir Ahmad Banday, Dr Mohammad Yusuf and Dr Mohammed Ashraf found “safe haven” in Parrypora to teach.

“Those were difficult times for private tuition players like Prof Iqbal,” recalls Abdul Majeed Wani, a student during 90s. “There were long curfews, crackdowns, showdowns, closed colleges and schools. The only hope for students amid all this was Prof Iqbal’s coaching centre.”

As the word of Prof Iqbal and other’s success reached peripheries, a large number of teachers from small towns and villages rushed to Parrypora to try their luck. One of them was Nazir Ahmad Tantray from Palhallan village in Pattan.

A known Physics teacher, Tantray within no time attained ‘the most sought after teacher’s’ tag at bustling Parrypora. “He teaches like a scientist,” says Sameer Ahmad, who is currently pursuing MBBS in Government Medical College Srinagar.

Sameer recalls coming to Parraypora for coaching before the present system of integrated coaching – all subjects taught under single roof like a college – started. “I used to study Zoology from Dr Sadam,” recalls Sameer. Dr Sheikh Sadam, who at one point of time was Prof Iqbal’s student, also played a key role in streamlining the private coaching sector in Kashmir.

Starting his stint as Zoology teacher from NIET, Dr Sadam later opened Aristotle’s Biology Tuition Centre in 2008. “His unique style of teaching attracts hundreds of students to his centre,” says Sameer.

Interestingly, there was no Chemistry teacher of repute in Parrypora, as students like Dr Hilal (who now teaches at VIPS), used to rush to Karan Nagar. “There, Bashir Ahmad would teach Chemistry to Class 12 students,” recalls Dr Hilal.

In 2005, Farooq Ahmad, a chemistry teacher for neighbouring Budgam district came to Parrypora and started Henry & Bell School of Chemistry. Farooq’s centre became famous after one of his students topped Common Entrance Test (CET) in 2009.

Farooq is currently associated with NIET tuition centre.

Policy Shift

As Parraypora turned into full fledged private coaching centre hub, state government intervened to regulate their functioning.

The tutors were asked to wind up individual classroom pattern of tuition following complaints of exploitation of student rights at these centres.

Therefore in 2012, the individual classes got amalgamated into coaching institutes. The two popular institutes that emerged thereafter are KIE and VIPS. The amalgamation allowed students to get coaching for all the subjects under a single roof.

But the biggest beneficiary of new government policy was NIET. After individual classes were closed in Parrypora, says an insider, NIET saw unprecedented rush in admissions. Taking cue from new policy NIET roped in Farooq Ahmad and Nasir Ahmad, well known mathematics teachers, to teach.

“It’s because of Farooq Sir I switched to NIET after one year at KIE,” says Imran Ali, a Class 12 student.

But experts feel that closing down of individual classes has reduced the flexibility and the choice students otherwise enjoyed. “We were free to pick teachers of our choice before government’s intervention,” says Suhail Ahmad, who is currently pursuing post-graduation in Computer Sciences.

With multiple teachers available at a coaching centre for a single subject, students complain of ending up in wrong classes. “I joined coaching for a particular teacher but our batch was assigned a different one,” says Adil.

The focus of commercial tuition centres in Parraypora lies on preparing students for MBBS. That is why less than 10 percent students in Parrypora opt for maths. Compared to MBBS, very few Kashmiri students crack Joint Entrance Examination (JEE). “There are no takers for maths in Kashmir,” says Dar.

The reason for less footfall in maths classes is because of easy availability of scholarships in engineering colleges across India. 

Flourishing Franchises

In 2015, Bansal Classes – Kota in Rajasthan based coaching institute – opened its branch near Parraypora for students who wish to crack JEE. Interestingly, they also have course for medical entrance examinations. “We don’t take more than 60 students per class in order to maintain balance in student-teacher ratio,” says Riyaz Majeed, Srinagar Franchisee owner. “We teach 5 percent students free of cost as a policy.”

Taking cue from success of coaching centres, a number of educational consultancies – offices of Indian and foreign professional colleges – have mushroomed in Parrypora.

The fact that colleges in Kashmir can accommodate only a limited number of students keeps them in business. “Students who cannot crack competitive exams looks for alternatives,” says Bilal, a Class 12 student.

Office of Dehradun based BFIIT College, which initially started its operations from a rented shop in Rambagh, shifted to Parraypora for better business.

Money Matters

According to Dr Hilal, there are around 1100 students enrolled at VIPS presently. Each student pays Rs 9000 per subject. “Now you can do the maths yourself,” says Dr Hilal. “We have 10 percent seats reserved for orphans and economically weaker sections of the society. We teach them free of cost.”

KIE has around 4000 students enrolled this year in various classes. Each student pays Rs 36,000 per session for four subjects. Since 2013, KIE runs a lower wing as well for 9th and 10th grade students.

On the other hand, NIET has around 3,000 students on its rolls this season. They charge Rs 30,000 per-session for three subjects. “We have 10 percent seats reserved for poor and orphans,” says Javid Ahmad, member management, NIET.

Apart from these three coaching centres there are around 27 small and big coaching centres with around 12,000 students between them.

Business Benefits

Huge migratory population of students at Parrypora have opened business avenues for locals. As rolls swelled in coaching centres, a large number of houses in and around Parrypora got converted into rented accommodations. “I share a common room at a local house with my cousin in Baghat,” says Aamir Kumar, who hails from South Kashmir’s Shopian. “We have to pay Rs 2000 per month.”

Apart from the local houses, the boom saw opening of around 50 hostels available in Parrypora and its adjoining areas. One such hostel belongs to friends Fayaz Ahmad, 28, and Javaid Ahmad, 22, of Tangmarg.

In 2012, Fayaz and Javaid hired a two storey-eight room house in Parrypora and converted it into hostel for students. Each room accommodating three students costs Rs 5000. This includes breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. “We pay Rs 40,000 per month as rent of the building,” says Fayaz.

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