The end of February has evoked a sense of de javu in Kashmir. This is the time when spring starts in the Valley but at the same time air becomes thick with the looming uncertainty. On Monday, as the schools re-opened following around seven months of closure including two and a half months of winter break here’s hoping that they don’t shut again.And this can only happen if the prevailing apparent normalcy holds.
The last year, according to an estimate, the schools, including colleges and higher secondaries remained open only for less than 50 percent of the time. After nullification of J&K’s special status on August 5 all educational institutions closed down and have resumed functioning only now.
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 Kashmir’s children has been much more profound and sweeping.
The situation as it stands is 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 closure of schools at the drop of a hat as it does now for the internet in the Valley.
True, the situation in J&K is very complex: the government cannot provide security to 15000 educational institutions and the latter also don’t want to be seen playing along with the government and thus seem to be going against the popular anger over actions seen at variance with the public sentiment.
Over the years, this tug of war has hopelessly politicised the education. Government and the dissenting groups mouth 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. It is time that we give the education of our children the importance it deserves and insulate it from the conflict in the region.
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