Rashid Paul

Continuous closure of Edu Institutions to impact Kashmir adversely 

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Closed in August 2019, reopening seems a distant dream

Srinagar: Experts warn that Kashmir is heading for a human capital crisis owing to the record shutting of educational institutions in the region since August 2019.

The education system in Kashmir has “collapsed” due to the shutdowns since August 2019. The current virtual mode hardly facilitates any process of learning, skill, creativity, personality, or psychological development among the children, they say.

The teaching and learning process in the Valley came under an unprecedented lockdown following invalidation of J&K’s special constitutional position by the Government of India on 5th of August 2019.

Later when life had started limping back to routine, the region came under another (spell of) lockdown in March this year following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though from September onwards, the restrictions were eased considerably on the social isolation and the bustle is now conspicuous in every sphere of the life, but strangely it is only the educational institutions from the school to university levels that continue to remain off limits for the learners!

Expressing anguish at the record closure of educational establishments in the Kashmir, Prof Abdul Rashid Trag, former Vice-Chancellor of the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) warns that “Kashmir is heading for an unprecedented crisis in human capital development.”

The expert is pained to see the schools, colleges and universities being closed continuously when all the government offices and private enterprises are have been allowed to function despite the pandemic.  District Development Boards elections are also being conducted with massive public participation in them, he said.

“It seems senseless to shut down the institutions of knowledge, skill development and prevent the enhancement of children’s social qualities,” he said.

Blocking the avenues for childrens’ experiences by closing down the educational institutions undermines the nation’s potential to have successful futures, he said.

Given the fact that general population in India would (according to public health experts) be vaccinable by the end of 2022, this newspaper asked Nighat Basu, a senior professor at School of Education, Central University Kashmir as to how shall the continuous closure of educational institutions affect the Kashmiri society.

“I fear it will revert us to a situation akin to what wars would lead the nations to,” she said.

“Kashmir has lost two consecutive academic calendars,” she said adding that the children here are living “in a lockdown within a lockdown”.

“They were already in psychological trauma after August 2019. The COVID induced lockdown this year has added to that trauma,” she added.

Commenting on converting the formal educational system into a virtual one, Basu says that an online system cannot substitute for the real classroom interactions which help build up the capabilities and potential of the learners.

“In the real teaching methodology, a teacher seeks to reach the inaccessible areas of students’ faculties and psychology. There is an eye contact and children have access to all the resources and materials available in offline education,” she said.

A predominant majority of the students in Kashmir, she said don’t have access to fast-speed Internet. They have a low speed 2G mobile Internet which has been decommissioned long ago in rest of the world.

“Poor internet is a disruptor in the online mode of education,” she added.

Her views are seconded by Faruq Ahmad, a senior teacher in a city public school.

In Kashmir 14,69,737 children are enrolled in schools out of which 8,99,418 students are registered in government schools and the rest in private ones.

According to Ahmad, the virtual mode could have helped in these times of crisis if there were fast-speed Internet and an assured electricity supply. But both are missing in Kashmir for the past one-and-half years, he said.

“Besides an enormous majority of school children in government schools are from the economically disadvantaged backgrounds. They have neither the smart phones to connect to the available shabby Internet nor do they have the television sets to watch the dedicated educational channels,” he said.

Interestingly all the educational experts this writer talked to referred to opening up of schools and colleges by Israel and many other European Union countries amid the peak of the pandemic.

In Kashmir, ‘where existence has reduced to the mere existence of survival’, matching its educational services and infrastructure with that of Europe and Israel would tantamount to irreverence of reasoning.

“But our rulers spend thousands crore of rupees on shows of magnificence. Why can’t they provide basic amenities in educational institution to ward off infections?

“Constitution presupposes them to ensure survival of every child and ensure enhancement of a productive human resource that can integrate with the world around it,” say the experts.

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