Bachcho Ki Awaaz: ‘Reopen Schools’ 

An Open Letter to Lieutenant Governor (J&K)  

By Sheeba

Based on conversations and inputs from students of Kashmir schools

I am Ainoor, one of the hundreds of J&K students who were in grade 6th when schools abruptly closed in August 2019. There was no online concept then. Today technically we are in 9th grade, but we still need to browse through 6th lessons to cope with 9th. I speak on behalf of almost all the students.

By the time winter vacations are over and hopefully if schools open in March, it will be more than 2.5 years that children in Kashmir have been deprived of our fundamental and constitutional right to seamless education and development.

Close to 1..0..0..0 days! A history in itself by far, for any region in the country, if not the world.

The biggest fear that gives me nightmares is - if this school closure continues for a year more, I will finish my 10th. Will I forever lose my only childhood opportunity of enjoying school days? I don’t want to. No one wants to.

So comes this sincere appeal to you.

We Respect Your Decision 

Yes, we do understand, it may not be your deliberate or first choice to close our schools. Our safety and security are also your prime concern. It is your sole responsibility to avert any possible mishap proactively. There is no scope of concession available to you if anything were to happen to even one single child accidentally. The population and media will not spare any mercy if an untoward incident occurred in school premises. The safest option to protect us is to close schools. Every parent or guardian would do the same in your position.

Yet, I wish to take this liberty to walk you through our world that is confined within 4 walls for more than 2 years. You too were 9 or 14 years old and so you will understand us.

We are Not Well

I just turned 14. But it doesn’t seem to excite anything around me. The day seems just as it has been since a long time - plain and lifeless. I sit near the window of my living room and try to wander my eyes around. The blanket of snow is equally bleak and cold hearted.

Memories of the only warm days of life fill my eyes as I hear me, my friends, their brothers and sisters prod cheerfully with our backpacks every morning. Laughter and banter fill the lanes on the way to our beloved school. The very sight of its gates opens us to a different world - hamari apni duniya.

A space where we simply enjoy being children. Where we made great friends and had lovely teachers. Where we learnt new things, played and grew up together. Each day added a different experience in our lives. We looked forward to coming back the next morning. Our Sunday ki chutti at home had a special flavour after a week at school.

Alas, we’ve lost our Sundays now! The smiling faces of classmates running around the grounds haunt my nights and the joyful noises seem a distant past. As we force ourselves to continue online sessions, very soon monotony drains our energy. No life. Kids do not enjoy virtual classes- when will adults understand this? If online can compensate for learning, why have schools at all? Why not buy every child a smartphone ?

All Is Not Well

Talking of smartphones, well, not everyone has access to it. Schools serve as levellers. With closures we are unknowingly pushing our society back to square one. Friends as Aisha now spend most of their day helping their mothers in household chores or are babysitters. Soon they will be married off. The boys are forced to help their fathers in menial jobs to support their families. Will all Aishas never come to school again? Will Zulfi end up in a garage and never get to pursue his dream in aeronautics? We now fear for ourselves too.

My friends share my angst, “We are missing out on so much exposure. Online is limited time, personal interactions with teachers are just not possible the way we could in schools. We have become lazy, our time wasted. The strongest support for us as teens are friends, not family, where we could share our problems and learn to deal with it. With schools closed, that is lost. We fear it’s forever lost.“

We fear our schools will never open, for no one around finds it important. We fear our future is lost, because we are not the priority. We fear we will never be heard because our voices are powerless. We fear our needs don’t matter to anyone even if tomorrow entirely depends on our wellbeing.

Progressive World Also Agrees 

World Bank’s Global Education Director Jaime Saavedra asserts, “There is no evidence that reopening schools has caused a surge in Covid-19 cases. There is no justification now for keeping schools closed in view of the pandemic and even if there are new waves, closing schools should be the last resort.“

There are equal reports by education teams at the World Bank to UNESCO, where experts have been warning against school closures now citing huge long-term losses.

Our Questions to You, Sir

With all these inputs, what is making it hard for our state to take this one right decision now?

We hear, couple of the states in India have come forward to reopen schools recently.

Why should not J&K take cue and announce a similar stand?

We fear if we will ever see the day when schools NEVER close except as a final resort. Just as hospitals or any Govt office or in many countries.

Will you help J&K lead India towards this unconditional commitment to children?

Our Earnest Appeal

Our hope now lies with you, Sir.

We are open for a dialogue with you, Bachcho Ki Awaaz! Let this incertitude about schools end for once and all. And please give us our schools back.

Let your promise be your gift to the children of J&K on the occasion of 73rd Republic Day.

To a person of vision whom we have heard to be a firm believer in progressive future and in child-youth power.

With all our love, we earnestly pray you create this brave history.

Yours Sincerely,

Children of Jammu & Kashmir.

__________________________

Sheeba 

oasismovement.in

Based on conversations and inputs from students of Kashmir schools


Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

  • Author works for character-building & child-centered school education reforms as also teens-youth-girl empowerment at J&K

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