Not much concern was shown about the quiet suffering of The regular functioning of schools has been disrupted for too long because mischief mongers devoted to the insurgency have required school children, both boys and girls, to be front liners in their confrontation with authorities. Thus, at least two generations have been largely kept away from education.
In 2008 schools were shut for about three months in the wake of street violence to protest land allotment to the Amarnath Shrine Board. An event that does not concern school-going children had them holding up posters standing in the front because they knew security forces cannot use force on them.
Two years later (2010) schools were closed for five months because of street violence that killed 110 people. In 2016 the young militant commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, Burhan Wani, was killed for trying to revive the insurgency. Organisers condemned the killing and mobilized students to protest in favour of Wani. As a result, schools remained closed for about half a year and several young people were killed.
The August 5, 2019, decision of the Central Government to abrogate the constitutional provision that gave Jammu and Kashmir a special status, came when Kashmir Schools were shut off for one or the other reason. Following the abrogation of Article 370 students were again used as frontline protesters affecting their education.
Kashmiri children love their schools. They are not spontaneous participants of protests the separatists organised. But due to disinformation and the planned isolation of the Valley, earlier it was easy to incite negative emotions in the youth.
A recent article in The Sunday Express shows how much Kashmiri children love their schools today. They tell their teachers how much they disliked learning on smartphones during Covid times.
Things are changing in Kashmir. Parents are realizing the psychological damage their children went through due to school closure. One father told The Sunday Express, “I think this is the first time, at least in my life, that schools have remained open so long”. Talking about the effects on children when schools are closed, he gave his daughter’s example, “She seemed to be withdrawn, would snap and get worked up over small issues. But all that has changed now that she is back to school.”
After August 5, 2019, schools remained closed for five months because of agitations over the abrogation of Kashmiris’ special status. But the government explained it took this drastic step to help the overall development of Kashmir and its people. The development of education and sports for Kashmiri youth has been a priority of the administration. Over 14,000 school dropouts rejoined school this session under the ‘Back to Village’ program, a huge achievement.
Secretary Education Ashok Kumar said that gains had been made this school season, especially with the 200-plus working days. The longer academic session helped to complete the syllabus. He said, “We have encouraged students to take part in curricular and co-curricular activities, which are part of the NEP (National Education Policy). We are also giving them vocational training to increase their employability.”
The above scheme is excellent, but it won’t work unless accompanied by a thorough orientation programme on scientific lines to keep children away from the net of those idlers whose bread and butter depend on using school children as fodder for violent agitations in the Valley. They would gamble away the children’s future on the slightest provocation to get funds from the neighbour. Pakistan is not interested in educating its children. It has destroyed the development of education in Afghanistan by bringing back the Taliban to reduce the state to a wild region. But these plans will no longer succeed in Kashmir.
During the three decades of insurgency in the Valley schools and students were an important target to eliminate literacy in Kashmir. With the reversal of this agenda, separatists’ temperament will be a thing of the past.