A small satirical video made by two youngsters highlighting the plight of students who had sit for recent board exams, aptly sketched the sorry state of affairs in Kashmir’s education sector. The video was made after pictures of students taking exams under candle lights became viral. There was instant hue and cry following the expose. But rather than putting things in order and make students comfortable in examination centres, government officials started witch-hunting private schools again. Despite the state of government run schools, both primary and higher secondary in Kashmir, which lack even basic necessities, officials seem to be obsessed in pulling up the private players who already are well equipped and modernized. In last two decades, private schools have contributed immensely in the education sector of Kashmir, filling the void left by the government-run schools. But, rather than appreciating their efforts and contribution, officials have a penchant of enforcing their writ over private players while neglecting the basic needs of government-run schools.
Recently, concerned Zonal Education Officers (ZEO) ordered private schools to paint at least one female toilet in pink colour so that it can be differentiated. The order was shot on an SOS basis, asking school owners to comply within 24 hours and submit a certificate of the same with the ZEO. The urgency in ZEO’s message was visibly forceful to say the least. Also, they were told to ensure that no student in the school is without an aadhaar card! But a closer look at government-run schools tells a different story altogether.
According to official data, 2100 schools (792 girls’ schools and 1343 boys) in Jammu and Kashmir have no toilet facilities for their students. Also, around 3200 government schools (from primary to higher secondary level) lack proper drinking water facilities for students. In such a scenario, officials are pushing private players, who contribute majorly in the education sector to the wall. At the same time, they (officials) are neglecting their primary jobs, which are making life of students in government-run schools easy by providing them basic facilities like toilets, electricity, drinking water, adequate staff, buildings and proper space. While officials are obsessed with private schools, which run from modern buildings with all facilities, students in government-run schools try to manage their stay under difficult conditions.
According to official data, there are 23,773 government schools in Jammu and Kashmir, against 5300 private schools. But while almost all private schools operate from their own buildings, around 3085 government schools still function from dilapidated rented buildings. Interestingly, there are 21 higher secondary schools functioning from rented buildings in capital city Srinagar alone. In such a scenario, focusing on private schools which are better equipped in almost every respect is simply illogical. It would be better if concerned officials invest their energies and huge resources in modernising the educational setup in government sector. It would be a huge relief for the downtrodden section of the society who completely depend on the government for their education. First priority should be to check the functioning of government schools where teachers outnumber students.