Basit Farooq and Aabid Mushtaq
Education promotes individual freedom, empowerment and yields important developmental benefits. The academic life of a student starts from school and almost ends at the university level. A student’s life is defined by the grades, performances in exams and finally by the degree he or she acquires. However, accomplishing these goals isn’t easy for a student in this part of the world as it involves lot of challenges, stages and hurdles. A student has to face emotional imbalances in schools, college and universities and this is true about almost every student studying in the world but the case of students in Kashmir is unique due to the prevalent situations and disturbed environment. A student’s emotional and real life experience in the educational institutions has an important impact on his grades and academic life and students in Kashmir go though trauma and distress every year. The educational institutions in Kashmir are most of the time closed due to frequent clampdowns and strikes for months together. As reported by Indiaspend, Kashmir lost 207 working days in the year 1991 and 112, 130 and more than 130 working days in the year 2010, 2016 and 2019 respectively (accounting for nearly 60% of total working days ). Despite all this, the students in Kashmir have been trying to get back to their normal class work and academic life but, there is a limit to everything.
Due to Covid-19, educational institutions were shut across the world; and every country is trying to save the time of its students by promoting online education. India too has started this initiative and it has been adopted by the educational institutions in Kashmir as well. But, the infrastructural and technical barriers are always to be kept in mind while starting these initiatives. The internet facilities in Kashmir are always down and as reported by internet tracker website, there was an internet shutdown in Kashmir since August 2019 till March 4th for 213 days and even after that internet has been snapped in Kashmir districts more than 10 times and it’s not certain whether the internet service in Kashmir will continue in future or not. The administration has restored low speed 2g internet facilities and but running online classes on this service is a futile exercise. Students who tried to attend such virtual classes haven’t understood a single word due to low network connectivity and buffering of videos. The University of Kashmir is however mulling to hold online classes continuously and has provisionally promoted students to their next semesters even without completing their syllabus in previous semesters through regular modes and withholding the pending exams. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued recommendations to all universities in India directing them that if situation doesn’t improve till June 15 then universities should promote their students on the basis of internal assessment and assignments , which was later also recommended by Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD). The students have been asking for the implementation of same guidelines from the university authorities in Kashmir. However the authorities seem to be acting arbitrary on the issue and do not pay any heed to the student pleas. The students are left in distress and a peculiar situation while the university is directing them to continue with classes when even most of the students find it difficult to have access to internet. The students in Kashmir have gone through trauma when clampdown was imposed for 4 months without break and now due to Covid-19 the institutions have been closed again, increasing the mental agony of the student community.
The Controller Examination KU, recently in an interview announced that there won’t be any mass promotion of students. He was relying on the point that University of Kashmir is A+ University graded by NAAC and therefore its not in the interest of students to give them mass promotion. However, the authorities need to understand that there is a difference between promoting students on the basis of internal assessment and viva on assignments than simple mass promotion, and the present interests of the students demand same. The University officials have said, that they will hold exams in the month of June or July while practicing social distance norms as recommended by the WHO and UGC. This has created more confusion among the students as they don’t know which semester they should focus on and prepare for. It’s not practically possible to continue with two semesters simultaneously. The situation related to Covid-19 is deteriorating day by day and due to this uncertainty it is difficult that the university could hold pen and paper exams in the month of June or July. In such a situation the university would again want its students to continue with their two semesters simultaneously adding stress and much pressure about the academics and that only will devastate the students. The announcement made by the university has thrown students into quandary and they are expressing deep anguish about the decisions made by the university.
Students aren’t able to join online classes on the one hand and on other the university is planning to hold examinations of present semesters on the basis of online classes, which majority of the students are either not able to attend due to low speed or in many cases due to absence of internet. And those who attend aren’t able to understand due to poor connectivity and unfamiliar experience to have classes online. The university might be thinking and acting on the line to save time of students and provide them degrees on time but a student is to be shaped and mentored while pursuing degree and not to be given a simple paper in hand which will have no value and will be of no use, if he or she hasn’t learned core principles about the courses within the campus and colleges.
The basic point is, the mental health of students in Kashmir is deteriorating due to these situations and no one seems to be concerned about it. Students aren’t machines who would respond to the inputs and demands of the university; the University is for the students and not vice-versa but sadly opposite seems to be true. It is a two way process and genuine concerns and demands of students need to be taken on board, which in the present case reflect in the guidelines of the UGC. A students life is defined by what he experiences in his college and university and if students are exposed to emotional torture and psychological distress then how do we expect defined and well furnished products coming out of universities. An academic institution has to think from the point of view of students as well and give primacy to their interests, no doubt, the university has always thought about its students but these situations demand more responsibility from the authorities and demand reasonable decisions from the authorities.
The university must promote students in their present semesters on the basis of their internal assessments in order to give them a clear way ahead and hold offline classes for upcoming semesters when the situation will normalise, otherwise, the chaos and confusion created in the minds of students will continue and it will have bad repercussions at a larger level.
- The Authors are students of Law at University of Kashmir and can be mailed at [email protected] & [email protected]
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