In an environment of conflict even the goal of basic literacy for all cannot be met. Studies on students’ achievement decline over long summer breaks clearly reveal socio–economic disparity. Students from traditionally disadvantaged sections of society perform much worse compared to students from higher socio – economic strata. Given the financial constraint, these children are at a disadvantage as they are unable to divert resources towards additional learning opportunities. They also do not have human capital support in form of educated parents, siblings or other family members, to assist them in their learning journey. Tuitions is a way of keeping up with peers but for the poor opportunity costs of attending tuitions is prohibitive.
Since the socio-political situation of Kashmir valley is extremely volatile, it is imperative that the government devise creative and innovative solutions for ensuring no child is left behind. These solutions, however, would need to be adaptable to the deep uncertainties and constantly changing dynamics in the region. These solutions could include a combination of formal and non-formal methods of teaching; partnering with NGOs to reach local communities; mitigating the risk of long distance travel by assigning teachers from within the localities to conduct classes in their neighborhood; and/or creating satellite schools within walking distance from home. Some such initiatives have been successful in other parts of the world. For instance, in Kenya’s North East Province, an impoverished and inhospitable terrain, a mobile camel library lends books to nomads, thus providing access to knowledge to the most disconnected youth. In Somalia, radio instruction programs were used to impart basic literacy and numeracy skills. These programs were reaching the children via digital media players. Foregoing are some economical and creative ways to meet the needs of children in difficult situations and regions. If the children of Kashmir are to have access to continuous education, creativity and flexibility are essential. This requires logistical and financial support, innovative ideas, training of teachers and most importantly, context sensitivity.
It is important to reiterate that education matters and its effective use can break the legacy of violence and mistrust. Discontinuities in education are inimical to psycho–social, emotional and cognitive development and literacy of the child. As we struggle to meet the millennium development goals in education, the impact of conflict on education and learning should be of urgent concern. We need to find ways to give our children a safe and secure learning environment in every situation especially during times of conflict.
Covid-19 lockdown, and lack of 4G Internet disrupts schools even as they were already reeling under the fallout of abrogation of Article 370. During pandemic schools are closed and 4G connectivity yet to be restored unlike other children in the rest of the country, who are at least getting benefited by online classes, children in J&K are deprived of that.
There is an education blackout since more than a year now in the valley. ccording to G N Var, President of Private Schools Association and Coaching Centres Association, the deplorable state of education in Kashmir has plagued its society. The association has not been able to initiate smaller programs to further the education of children, let alone conducting the online classes.
Kashmir is the only place in the world where 2.7 million hapless children do not have access to knowledge and information. Can there be any injustice bigger than this? The Valley has around 2700 private schools in Kashmir with around 6,50,000 students enrolled in them. The clampdown on education has also disrupted the livelihood of around 65,000 teaching and non-teaching staff who are dependent on schools.
Due to the indefinite shutdown of schools, parents don’t pay the money to private institutions. Even the government officials who get the education allowance for their children from the state administration, do not pay the fees when the schools are shut.
Poor infrastructure of government-run schools. The crisis is more severe in government-run schools owing to its poor understructure. According to the former education minister, the state of Jammu Kashmir has a weak education infrastructure, with 18000 out of 23000 government schools are in dilapidated condition. 70 per cent of the 18000 lack drinking water facilities, while 90 per cent of girls’ schools do not have toilet facilities.
The restructuring of the education system requires efficient administration with at least 4-5 years in hand to bring ground breaking changes.
No alternatives to 4G
At a time when the education department has started online classes for students across Jammu and Kashmir since March 26, high-speed 4G internet remains elusive across the Union territory.
The 4G service was snapped here on August 4 last year, a day before the BJP-led central government had revoked Article 370.
The Supreme Court reserved its decision on the restoration of 4G in Jammu Kashmir. The top court said that it has to deal with the legal question of ensuring balance in view of health and security concerns raised by the petitioners and the governments.
The Centre and the state administration of Jammu and Kashmir justified the restriction on 4G service in the union territory saying high-speed internet might be used for sending information about troop movement.
However, education of all sorts, including private, public, and non-profit & non-government, has gone for a toss in Jammu Kashmir. The institutions had also tried to come up with temporary substitutes of 4G amidst the COVID-19 lockdown, but no alternative yielded a positive outcome.
In some parts of Kashmir where the situation is more volatile, the speed of the internet is as low as 100-120 kbps. What can be downloaded or uploaded with that speed? even sending a message on WhatsApp is a task.The private school association tried to run academic classes on Zoom, but due to the unavailability of fast-speed internet, it takes a lot of time to download or be on a video call.
Every kid does not have a phone back home. Hence, teachers cannot send worksheets to them. A lot of students miss out on homework and worksheets as parents. The families struggle to use messaging apps like WhatsApp. “This is very basic and experimental. A lot of kids find this problematic.
Due to the frequent unrest in the Valley followed by indefinite shutdown, the disparity between students in Kashmir compared to students in other parts of the country is apparent.
The holistic development of children in the Valley is not possible as the administration is not prioritizing education.
The administration is suppressing students by snatching their rights to education, information, and play .What are they doing to their psyche? These children cannot even venture out to indulge in any physical activities due to frequent lockdowns.
The administration is only coining one term after the other to deny children access to high-speed internet. If the govt thinks that anyone is misusing social media then it can take necessary action against the culprit. That does not mean you deal with shutting the internet completely.
If you give the right to education, people turn out to be doctors and scientists and contribute to building the nation. But, if you encourage illiteracy and disturb education then you are building a nation of illiterates with no logic and reasoning. The ramifications of such large gaps in education are dangerous.
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