Kashmiri students have apparently in anger hit the streets and protested against the holding of exams. They have asserted that they will not be compelled to sit for exams till 'Azadi'.
In a related development, Shah Faesal, the IAS topper from Kashmir and Director Department of School Education, has in a Facebook post, laced with sarcasm stated, “ I am Director of shut schools. I need a job”. Both –the protests of students and Faesal’s remarks- point out to the education system and process of Kashmir which have come to a practical stand still after the killing of young militant commander Burhan Wani on July 8.
While some suggest that student protests are orchestrated both as a response to Government’s attempts to re-open schools, colleges and hold exams against the backdrop of the protests and as a pressure tactic, it stands to reason that either way students and education in Kashmir will suffer. If there is truth to the assertion that students are being instrumentalized for political ends - either by the Government or the separatists- this is plain wrong.
Education is education and it cannot and should not be politicized- whatever the exigencies of a given situation.
If students are adamant against the Government’s injunctions and attempts to kick start the education system and protests and if there are attempts at politicization, this presents a very awkward situation and condition for all parties. And if these attempts on either side persist, then the obvious consequence will be dead lock and stalemate- a condition that is good for no party and which has socially deleterious consequences. Given that education is must and brooks no compromise, what then is the way out? One obvious mechanism that stares us in the face is to depoliticize the whole saga: students must realize that they cannot afford to become laggards in terms of their education and fall victim to politics; at the same time, the state also must not play politics. Once education is depoliticized then a dialogue can be initiated between stakeholders in the education eco-system: parents, teachers, students and the education administration. In essence what needs to be discovered is a Modus Vivendi that is a win-win for all.
What could be the shape and form of this Modus Vivendi?
Under the conditions that obtain in Kashmir, this is a very difficult question to answer. One mechanism could be to bring all stakeholders under an umbrella or rubric wherein genuine and legitimate concerns could be articulated and then ways and means charted out to come out of the imbroglio. The specifics of this approach could lie in ad hoc mentoring programs coupled and complemented with area wise peer to peer outreach and study under the current circumstances. This could then be brought under both real and virtual platforms and instruction thus imparted. Education delivery and other related issues could be sorted out and key and significant portions (the ones that lie at the heart of each course, class or standard) be examined. Care should be taken to cater this program to the most deprived and vulnerable sections of the student community. This delineation is a tentative course of action proposed by the KO. We, however, believe that more practical and pragmatic courses of action and options can emerge once all stakeholders sincerely and genuinely with politics out of the picture, come together to find a solution to the imbroglio. This, given the sanctity of education and its importance is the need of the hour. Let the process begin now.
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