Aizah Nazir : Education is the social institution through which society provides its members with important knowledge, including basic facts, job skills, and cultural norms values. One of the most important benefits of education is that it improves personal lives and helps the society to run smoothly. By providing education, poverty can be removed and every person can provide their contribution to developing the country. One of the major challenges of education in situation of conflict is the discontinuities it creates. These impact students’ academic performance as well as their psyco–social developments.
Long breaks due to strikes and curfews have been a recurring feature in Kashmir. As per data compiled by the Jammu and Kashmir police based on media reports, since 1990 Kashmir has lost significant working days due to conflict. As reported by Indiaspend, 207 working days were lost in 1991, 112 in 2010 and 130 is in 2016 (accounting for nearly 60% of total working days). And talking about 2019, 182 working days were lost.
The most tangible impact of long closures is the pressure on institutions to complete the prescribed syllabus in shorter time periods. Children are not empty containers that can be filled with information; they are inquisitive, meaning-making individuals who learn through the process of interacting with their environment rather than ‘remedial classes’. Education needs to be holistic development of the child that goes beyond basic literacy. In an environment of conflict even the goal of basic literacy for all cannot be met.
The reasons that the Indian government presented for the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A was in their words, to facilitate development. How will development take place if the most badly affected sector because of the abrogation of Article 370 is the education sector. When Home Minister announced abrogation of Article 370, he promised prosperity, development and peace. However, since then as the year passes, the region has descended into crises situation with economy, education institutions shut. One of the tragic part of the Kashmir story have been its students.
In an interview, Mubashir (a teacher from Kashmir) quoted “To be very honest, I would like to say that the most badly affected system because of the abrogation of Article 370 was education sector because the students had to stay at home and they were not able to go to school. And you know the internet was also banned during that tenure and because of that we were not able to give online classes as well.”
In an interview, Zaid Kirmani (a law student from Kashmir) said “No one really thought that entire lockdown would last for as long as it did. I personally thought it would be for 10-15 days and then we will go back and finish our examination. Personally, for me what the I lost was, I lost one entire year which ended up adding another year, making a five-year degree became a six-year degree essentially. It’s a very old running joke in Kashmir university that you know a five-year degree takes six or seven years because of the shutdown. For me it was a huge loss of time. Honestly, all of us students were at loss because this is a professional course, this is the law. You need someone to teach you the new answers, you need someone to explain it to you. No matter how much you try to study on your own it won’t happen. It would have been an entirely different thing altogether if we had internet to look up. We can clear our doubts on the internet but that was obviously not going to happen. When you live in a place like Kashmir there is an acute lack of exposure from school itself. Other people who are not in war torn territory such as Kashmir get that exposure but we don’t, we don’t even get internet properly.”
The students in Kashmir have not attended school for a year except for a week’s time in February. The students in Kashmir barely have internet, it has been difficult for teachers to give online lectures as well. Students feel a kind of loss and despair. They have not attended school and other curriculum activities which doctors say are very important for students for their mental health, for their peace. And if we talk about teachers, they have not received their salaries for months. We can say that students somehow managed to give their online exams but most of the teachers and students have called it a formality. Valley has around 700 private schools with around 6,50,000 students enrolled in them. The clampdown on education kind of destructed their livelihood. It indicates that how education has been affected in Kashmir”. He also said that “he was uncertain about his future because he cannot think of his future in Kashmir as every year there is some kind of unjust. So, he has to look for the opportunities outside. Almost every student in Kashmir apply for scholarship and fellowship outside because they feel that they cannot do anything in Kashmir.”
Internet can be snapped at any time because either an encounter or a strike, anything can happen. That’s how students go about their studies, they have planned it in such a way that they have included information blockage and communication gaps into their study schedule.
Will these students be able to cope up with the changing world? Will they be able to experience their ‘college life’ ever? When will 4g internet get restored?
Will they ever get answers of these questions or maybe for them this has to be “new normal”?
The writer (Aizah Nazir) is a student, currently pursuing IMBA from Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora.