Three decades have passed but the violent upsurge triggered by widely rigged 1987 assembly elections in the Kashmir valley continues. It has disrupted the normal life and engulfed us into the never ending turmoil. Uncertainty has gripped us and future looks bleak. The unrest has not only severely disrupted our economy but also pushed the education sector into dark abyss. This sector was worst hit.
The political uncertainty has dimmed the future prospects of our children. It has snuffed out our hopes. We are in a dilemma. Our daily routine is paralysed by lockdowns and shutdowns. The entire valley has turned into a militarised zone. Schools and colleges too became targets. At many places these institutions were converted into the camps for government forces.
After Pandit migration, outsiders and many locals were of the opinion that we would never stand on our own feet. Pandits were dominating government sector including teaching profession. With their departure education sector suffered a big hit. There were many apprehensions and challenges. In those testing times, teaching was not an easy task. Students were rough and rigid. Teachers had to be very careful with their head and hands. Any inordinate error could sometimes land a teacher into trouble and even could have cost him or her dearly. With the passage of time, private school teachers held the reigns and overcame the sad state of affairs. They played pivotal role in imparting the qualitative education. Their hard work was paid off when the students from Valley excelled and topped in different Entrance Exams for professional courses which was a distant dream before. They not only prepared them for competitions but also for the real life challenges.
They confronted the challenges and delivered beyond our expectations.It is only and only because of their tireless efforts that today Kashmiri professionals are making waves around the world. Be they writers, doctors, professors, poets, engineers, bankers or business leaders Kashmiris are leaving an indelible mark of excellence across the globe. It was a herculean task, which our teachers performed with utmost devotion.They took us out of the shackles of darkness.They have shown us a path and reignited hopes in us to dream big for our children. All these years, these teachers are toiling so hard for us. Now is it not our duty to address their concerns?
Every time, any untoward incident happens, the fee charged by the private schools becomes the talk of the town. We need to understand the plight of private school teachers before drawing any conclusions. Ever since schools were closed following the August 5 lockdown teachers are made the target. The hue and cry over the school fees (to be paid or not) has led to an uncomfortable feeling among the teachers. Its deeply worrisome that their worth is being made to look directly proportional to the school fee being paid. The stake holders not for a moment sympathized with them.There has always been blatant exploitation. Social media is abuzz with updates of parents stigmatizing the teachers at the slightest pretext.
We had witnessed many tragic summers in last one decade.As and when the torch bearers of the private sector education felt the pulse of normalcy they were found at the forefront. However the entrepreneurs running schools leave no opportunity to force parents to fee in full despite schools remaining shut. Ironically many of them refuse to pay to teachers during lockdown periods.
There has to be the proper rationalisation so that neither parents nor private school teachers have to bear the brunt. Sometimes being kind is better than being right. We have to look at the core aspects and than decide the future course of action based on computation and compassion. There are around 2640 private schools operating in Kashmir out of which 96% comprise economical schools and 4 % are expensive schools. In the former class, what teachers earn is pittance and in the later case, they are profit making enterprises where still teachers are paid decent perks. Its not difficult to gauge whether the economical or elite class schools are on the break even point or not. It is proven fact how much annual admission donations augment to the regular income of elite schools. If we dig deep, we will be surprised to find that almost 60% of the economy class schools are under heavy debt and mostly the students from the lower middle class are enrolled in these schools. In view of the harsh economical crises, it’s utmost difficult for these schools to sustain and repay the loans. Unfortunately in these unusual and unprecedented times, the axe has fallen on them. Only Govt relief package can save them, as they are on the verge of closure. Our concern should be the welfare of the private school teachers who are running these enterprises with their sweat and blood, otherwise it’s going to hurt the future of our children. We should support the economical schools to what ever extent we can and in case of elite class schools the entire burden shouldn’t fall on the parents.There has to be justified fee cut.
We have been in lockdown from last 10 months. The business is already in shambles. Every sector be that tourism, transport, arts and crafts are badly hit. It is the money of government employees which is circulating back forth in the market. Their 4% DA raise, annual increment, travel allowance had already been slashed down. Given the current situation, there are chances for the financial emergency as well. There are around 7.5 Lakh students in Kashmir and everyone is not supported by the government employee.
Without proper profiling it will be sheer injustice if parents are asked to pay the whole amount for days of closure. Kashmiris may be known for stocking rations for exigencies but it is not also necessary for us to make a provision for the “education budget” for our children as well. Storage of food items meet the needs of our belly but education satiates the needs of our soul.
Riyaz Ahmad Kazmi
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