The armed insurgency that started in Kashmir in 1990, took its severe toll on Kashmir. Not only did Kashmiris suffer as a consequence of constant violence that engulfed the entire valley, it affected all facets of life in the valley. Be it healthcare, infrastructure, business, tourism etc, everything suffered badly as a result of the prolonged violence in the valley. If there is one sector of the Kashmiri society that witnessed the most horrible consequences of this, it has to be the education sector. With the onset of violence in the 90s, a large number of schools were burnt. Even many colleges in the valley suffered physical damage during that period. Many schools were converted into camps for the security forces. With normal life thrown out of gear, students couldn’t regularly attend colleges. Also with curfews and hartals, he future of hundreds of thousands of school children in the valley became quite uncertain. What made matters worse was that most Board and University exams could not be held in time. With the result students lost precious time. A three year college degree in the 90s easily took about 4-5 years to be completed. Even the professional degrees like MBBS, MD and Engineering could not be completed in time.
He educational infrastructure in the valley suffered huge damage during the years of active insurgency. Not only that, but the overall culture of studies suffered as a result since many students used unfair means during those years of uncertainty to pass their exams. As a result, the overall quality of education suffered badly. In the last few years, when the violence in the valley has receded substantially, the education system is trying to come to regain the normalcy that was once a part of it. But given the experience of these years, it is difficult to be overtly optimistic about regaining the lost glory in the very near future. For starters, education system in Kashmir continues to suffer from closure of colleges and even schools in the wake of regular strike calls given by separatist parties, notably Hurriyat Conference. The State also resorts to curfews and restricts movement of people at the slightest pretext. If that was not enough, the elements have also played spoilsport in the last year to throw the education system back into a chaotic situation. During the last year, the State Govt extended summer holidays for fear of l violence in the wake of political violence in the Gaza Strip. This assumption was far fetched and clearly showed the insensitivity and callousness of the administration in the valley. The schools had barely opened for about a month when devastating floods hit Kashmir Valley in early Sep last year and hence the schools had to remain closed. School and college infrastructure in many places was either partially or completely damaged and hence the students could not soon return to their schools.
The examination are held in the months of Oct-Nov in the valley. But due to prevailing circumstances last year, the exams were held in time. The situation was accentuated by the 3 month long winter vacations. The State Govt could have given mass promotion to students upto Class 9th to save their time. But the administration again showed its callousness and the situation worsened as a result.
It is in this backdrop that the new Govt in the State should treat Education in the whole State on top priority and do its best to get things to normal. It is a daunting task, but possible, nevertheless.
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