Akeel Rashid

It’s not all about vacations!

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As the demand for extending summer vacations picked up on Wednesday in view of the hot weather conditions in Kashmir, it spontaneously laid bare the issue of poor physical infrastructure in government-run schools of the valley. But what have vacations got to do with the aforementioned issue? Well, one of the justifications that the parents cite, which I would also like to cite, for extension of summer vacations is the lack of concrete buildings in the government-run schools, as a result of which, students are being taught in the makeshift tin sheds at many places. On the face of it, every one of us can comprehend what it is like to sit inside a tin shed during sultry summer weather! Various news reports have also revealed how two, three or sometimes four classes are being simultaneously taught within a single room and thereby giving rise to poor ventilation conditions.

Extension in vacations, summer or winter, won’t do. To begin with, a) the parents need to understand the fact that there is always a chance of hot weather conditions prevailing longer than the longest period of summer vacations and b) the government needs to look beyond summer vacations and fulfil the physical infrastructural needs of its schools.

More to the point: Advisor to the Governor, Mr Farooq Ahmad Khan, was very quick to issue a statement pertaining to speculations and requests of extension in summer vacations as he made it clear that there was “no justification to extend the summer vacations”.  It remains to be seen as to what did Mr Khan really mean when he said there was “no justification to extend the summer vacations”, but at the same time, the justifications cited by the common people with regard to the extension of summer vacations carry a lot of weight. By analyzing the origins of the people’s justifications, the concerned authorities should begin their dip into the physical infrastructure needs of the government-run schools.

It is not just the lack of concrete buildings that constitute the physical infrastructural crisis in government-run schools. Majority of the schools have got spacious buildings but lack in basic amenities such as electricity, drinking water and toilets. Since it is certain that electrification of the schools will take time and expecting ceiling fans would be sheer wishful thinking, the government should suggest some traditional fixes for keeping the classrooms cool. It seems quite easy for the government to order the closure and reopening of educational institutions but very difficult to monitor the pathetic circumstances under which they function.

According to the official data compiled, in July this year, by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), 36 per cent of the schools in Jammu and Kashmir have electricity connections, leaving the rest 64 per cent of schools without the said facility.

The physical infrastructural crisis in government-run educational institutions is not limited to the schools only but the colleges and universities are also lacking in basic amenities. During winter season also, the students complain about the lack of heating arrangements in schools, colleges and universities. It is when the parents and students demand winter vacation and the government obliges in order to sweep its shortcomings under the carpet.

I may not have the exact figures of how many schools in the valley are functioning in makeshift accommodation, nevertheless being a desk editor; I have come across hundreds of news stories which reveal the pathetic conditions of the government-run educational institutions.

Fulfilling or rejecting the demands of people is not the only job of the government but it should always attempt to read between the lines of peoples demands.

The author tweets @akeel_rashid_ and can be reached at [email protected]

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