Students Sans Schools: How Crippled Campuses Changed Young Kashmiris?

STUDENTS in Kashmir have been away from schools since the Abrogation of Article 370. In the communication blockade that followed, they couldn’t even access educational resources online. After the situation started to cool down, students returned to school albeit briefly. This was because of the unprecedented and unaccepted worldwide lockdown on account of the covid-19 pandemic. This affected education to a large extent but Kashmir students who had already been away from school, had it harder. Even now, two years into the pandemic, schools haven’t been fully operational. Some students have only attended offline exams and this has been their only trip to school. While students from Higher secondary school did get a chance to attend schools physically, younger ones have found themselves without any functional knowledge of what it truly means to go to a school.

Kashmir Observer got in touch with our readers to see how they’ve encountered the phenomena of “Students Without Schools”. This is what they had to say: 

“I have two kids. One of them only went to school once. She only has her winter uniform. The situation never let her wear those smart tunics that I always wanted her to wear for summer. The elder one went to school for a good amount of time up till the 6th grade and now he’s only started with his adolescent life. It’s scary having them at home with their phones in hand. Even without them, it feels like making them susceptible to social anxiety if they do not interact with their peers”

Huzaifa S, Parent

“It’s like a joke on us. For the most part of our kids growing up, we tried to keep them away from their gadgets. Now, as fate would have it, this was how they could keep in touch with their education. It’s heartbreaking watching them study as these squares on the screen and not have the opportunity to look at their peers, admire their body language, appreciate them and applaud them as they answer questions. We’ve had a pretty traumatic school life. I wanted my kids to be supportive fellow students and spread kindness. With them at home, all this seems far fetched”

Nowsheen Showkat, Parent

“In Kashmir, younger kids are often taught by their cousins at home, in addition to them taking their regular classes. I remember teaching my younger cousin when she was in Kindergarten and she was very receptive to lessons. Infact, she was quite keen on completing her homework after returning from school. When schools closed in 2019, I wasn’t around. Cut to 2021, my cousin struggles with her lessons. She has forgotten things she had learnt in Kindergarten. Their attention span is very fickle and even when all of our family is putting in hours to get her to cope up, it is difficult. Unfortunately, we’ve now had to drop this barely 10 year old girl for tuitions”

Mehar M,  Engineer  

“Students participate actively in classroom activities which are not possible in the online classes.

Social skills are not fully enhanced in online classes as peer interaction is imperative for that.

And more importantly, the students are becoming victims of digital addiction as the whole day is spent on laptops and phones. That is affecting their physical health as well”

Bhat Mehreen, Student.

“Due to covid-19, schools all over the world remained closed for nearly two years. Children have rarely been to school which affected their studies. The world shifted to online mode of education, however education remained affected. The school as we know is not only about becoming literate. In school, we become educated which includes things like discipline, management ‌, and ethics and so on. The online mode can’t educate a person. This is clearly visible from the behavior of our children who are spending more time on useless stuff on the internet and have become more rowdy in these years. Also, online classes gave them an excuse to have a phone at an early age which opened doors of evils for them. The corruption of the web is known to all of us and the young children don’t have the management skills to use these things properly. As a result, we are witnessing a detrimental impact on moral values and ethics among the young generation”

Mirza Arsalan Rafiq, Student 

“It has had a ruinous effect on students and caused a lack of personality development. Health issues have increased due to more screen time. It has affected the moral and behavioral development of children. As they have become cocooned to their phones and confined to their houses, this has resulted in anger issues as well. This has been very daunting and disappointing of an experience”

Tahir Nisar, Parent. 

“Covid-19 pandemic has widely changed the global scenario and has affected almost every nook and corner of the world in one way or the other. One of the worst affected sectors is the education sector. Schools have been compelled to go for the online teaching methods. But imparting education has not met the real essence and motive of providing education to the students. Although it was a need of an hour to shift to online mode of teaching for the safety of both teachers and students but there are some drawbacks of online teaching as well which include the lack of direct communication between the teachers and students, motivational crises, lack of Socio- psychological connect etc imparting education through online mode”

Hilal Ahmad Dar, Research Scholar Kashmir University

“The sudden transition from offline to online mode of teaching is not that effective. School is an important social domain and it plays an important role in the social, intellectual and psychological development of a child. It provides an environment for effective learning. A special bond is created between a teacher (role model for a child) and a student (who imitates his teacher) in the classroom”

Maheen Amin, Teacher

“As a teacher, we’ve seen two patterns unfolding. When we teach a younger class of say the 3rd standard, it is difficult to keep their attention for 40 minutes. A student of 8th standard is easier to teach because they know what is expected of them in a classroom setup, even as it is digital. The younger ones have suffered the most. Sometimes when I volunteer to teach kids from my family, I make sure I make them do things we would do in school. I even ask them to sing”

Shakira Khan, Teacher 

“I was my cousin’s go-to for clubs to join, speeches at morning assemblies and sports pep talk. My younger cousins haven’t had the chance to join any of these. They have their report cards, yes. But they don’t have certificates from painting competitions. They don’t have a sport that they like. They don’t know if they’re talented in singing and dancing. They don’t know if they’d be able to run cross country runs. They haven’t heard the morning prayer hymns. It’s even worse with nuclear families. Kids don’t have anyone to spend time with. Thankfully, I live in a joint family setup and we have some lawns where kids can play. I have now seen kids buying bicycles and skateboards. They hold painting competitions among themselves in our lawns. It’s a positive sight but deeply unsettling. I wish they have the chance of going to school soon”

Suzain Punjabi, Homemaker

“School time is a pleasing period in one’s life. A person carries and cherishes the memories made during this phase throughout his/her life. But sadly, there’s no school life in Kashmir since that sullen summer of 2019. Kashmiri students became home captives and passed through the nightmarish experience. Life without school is indeed additional burden on the already overburdened young minds of the valley”

Feroz Ali, Writer

“It’s one thing to talk about the problem and another thing to address it. While we are vocal about students sans school, we should also hold ourselves responsible for failing them. Societies thrive on innovative minds, but we Kashmir are only getting bogged down with the persistent problems. Apart from online education that these kids are receiving, we should have exposed them to the meaningful activities making them multitalented in their lives. It’s ok to lament over loss, but it’s obligatory to mend the mess”

Shagufta Shah, Banker

“Two years without school has drastically changed my 12-year-old son. He’s no longer sporty and chirpy. He remains glued to screen. I had to take him for a mandatory eye-test recently after he complained about dizziness. It’s not that he remains confined to indoors, but the absence of school is taking toll on his mental health.

Before August 2019, he was an eager child, but now he keeps sulking. Sometimes I feel that these years of no-schooling have affected our children beyond repair. I shouldn’t say this, but when I look at my transformed kid, I became fearful”

Aneesa Shabir, Clerk

“Lately, I was discussing the possible future of our children who had to pass through these consecutive years of curbs and confinements. He said something very interesting that back in nineties when we were growing as teenagers amid the explosive armed conflict in Kashmir, we solely invested our time and resources on education. Later on, our generation excelled in many fields.

Although our children faced the similar situation, they had to endure lot than we could imbibe. They are impressionable kids with eye for detail. While we remained fixed in certain time frame, they grew fast in times of smartphone and rampant propaganda against Kashmiris.

All this, I believe, schooled them much better way than their closed campuses could’ve ever taught them. But the problem with an inorganic growth is that it always comes with some undesired consequences”

Imtiaz Khan, Chemist.

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