Why The Government and Stakeholders Must Sit And Decide About Education Right Now?

by Aasia Hassan

It is high time that authorities along with other stakeholders formulate a clear policy so that education doesn’t continue to suffer. We can’t further afford to deprive our generations of education and destroy our future.  A state’s prime focus should be on developing our youth for a better future.

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

Education has been out of track for quite some time now worldwide. This is probably the first time that education is almost affected worldwide and in particular, India owing to Covid-19 and its various variants. Speaking generally for Kashmir, education is the first casualty of anything which is contrary to normal.

Firstly, the conflict has had a huge impact on the education system of Kashmir. From time to time, we are all aware that because of different versions of conflicts education has suffered the most; educational institutions have remained closed for months at a time. At those times, there was mostly no access to the internet and children didn’t even have the means to online education.

Secondly, winter plays its role in weakening the education system of Kashmir; schools remain closed for more than three months, which is also particular to Kashmir as nowhere in India, have we seen schools closed for so long.

Mass promotions are also particular to Kashmir and are a way to hide our failed education system.

There are so many hurdles to education in Kashmir and then we expect our children to compete with the rest of the country.

Now Covid 19, which keeps coming back again and again and when it arrives, the first thing our system does is close educational institutions. Educational institutions are closed because of winter vacation and the resort available to students is private tuition and coaching, but as soon as there is a spike was seen in the number of Covid cases, the authorities order closing of these tuition centres. Everything else such as shopping malls, public parks remain open, there is no respite in public transportation, buses remain crowded with only a small portion of the population wearing masks, markets remain crowded with people mostly not wearing masks. But educational institutions are to be closed and there is a scrutiny of the sort regarding this that one feels that the authorities are trying to satisfy some vendetta against these coaching centres.

While I understand that students are in huge numbers in these coaching centres and it may cause an alarming spike in the number of Covid cases and may result in containment zones, but it is not the solution to the problem. This is the third wave of this virus and all we are doing is that we are hiding from the problem rather than trying to come up with some solutions. Let’s face it, the virus may become a part of our lives, it may never go away, so for how long will we just subside it and not face the reality and continue to jeopardize the future of our youth?

It is high time that authorities along with other stakeholders formulate a clear policy so that education doesn’t continue to suffer. We can’t further afford to deprive our generations of education and destroy our future.  A state’s prime focus should be on developing our youth for a better future.

Moreover, there should be clear guidelines to coaching centres that they cut down their fee and refund half of the fee to students if already paid because they are not availing classroom facilities, electricity or heating arrangements etc, so it is clearly unfair to charge the same amount they charged for offline classes. Further, some students may need to buy smartphones and also bear the burden of internet charges to attend online classes.

Aasia Hassan

The online classes don’t work in everyone’s favour, one needs fast internet to attend an uninterrupted class, which the majority of the students don’t have especially people belonging to rural areas, there is no Jio fibre or any other wifi type internet facilities. A considerable portion of our population is poor and doesn’t even have access to smartphones, so this online mode of education is a hoax to them.

The regular power cuts in Kashmir, especially in winter, is not something new, some areas are deprived of electricity for days at a time and again many households do not have access to inverters or other kinds of power backups. They can’t charge their smartphones, there are so many issues associated with online classes, that’s why it is the need of the hour for the authorities to come clear with certain guidelines so that in the absence of access to offline education, online education is made accessible to all. We cannot afford another year of disrupted education as in the absence of education, our children- the future of our nation are more likely to indulge in different kinds of social evils.

(The author is a research scholar at the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi, pursuing masters in Constitutional Law. She also is a blogger. 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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