The beginning of March has evoked a sense of de javu in Kashmir. The air is again thick with the mounting uncertainty. Several militant and the civilian killings have put the situation back on edge. The prospect for the spring and the summer ahead looks once again grim. One detrimental fallout of this has been on the education. Schools have been open only for one day since March 5 when they re-opened following two and a half months of winter break. The reason this time has been the killing of the three militants, one of them Eesa Fazili belonged to Soura area in Srinagar.
This has sent Kashmir reeling again. Inevitably a spontaneous hartal and the protests have followed in several parts in response to the killings and the government has imposed calm by shutting the schools down. The situation echoes the last year when, according to an estimate, the schools, especially colleges and higher secondaries remained open only for 50 percent of the time up to June.
And this year too, the things look headed in the same direction. One reason for this is that the state government is finding it easier to close schools than ensure their functioning under prevalent difficult security conditions. There is not much that the government can do to make a durable difference to the security situation but it can certainly do more to facilitate the functioning of the schools. True, the situation is very complex: the government cannot provide security to 15000 educational institutions and the latter also dont want to be seen playing along with the government and thus seem to be going against the popular anger against the ongoing killings and the blindings.
This tug of war has hopelessly politicised the education. Government and the pro-freedom groups are mouthing platitudes about their concern for education, but in practice seek to use the school children against each other at times spinning the issue into a competing moral-cum-ideological argument.
Also, the setback to the education is a development that has only been incidental to the ongoing strife. The larger fallout of the unrest on Kashmirs children has been much more profound and sweeping. For one, the protests in Valley are being more or less entirely led by the 15 to 20 year olds.
The situation as it stands is thus as follows: The uncertain and interrupted schooling deprives Kashmiri youth proper education and skills. The lack of employment opportunities denies them a future. And the lingering conflict over the state frames their worldview and determines their lives and choices. It also exacts heavy costs in terms of the loss of life and injury. If anything, this renders Kashmir of today structurally unfavourable to its children. And this scenario can only be expected to replicate itself endlessly unless there is a fundamental change, shift or alteration in the factors in play.
This is a tough and a complex situation. And the state government, in many ways, is also responsible for it. Least that it can do is to ensure the education does not suffer and thus not call for the closure of schools at the drop of a hat when even Hurriyat and the militant organizations make such a demand.
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