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Absurdity hits education sector in Kashmir

THERE is no doubt that education system in Kashmir needs a major revamp. No matter how one looks at the state of affairs in education sector, there is a need for improvement both in terms of academics as well as the overall functioning of the system. The onus falls on the State administration to take elaborate corrective measures to fix the system which is run partly run by government and partly by private players.
Kashmir has witnessed establishing of plethora of private schools in recent years. Most of these schools have been set up purely as business ventures. A closer look at these schools reveals that many of these schools are run by school and college dropouts, who lack any social commitment or experience in education sector. Lately some local business houses have started investing in education sector. No person should or can have any objection to that as long as the main purpose of these business houses remains to impart education. In the process if they also make some profit, it is acceptable. But contrary to it, the main purpose of schools run by business houses is profit, and education and other related aspects of schooling take the backseat.
Many private schools in valley also run evening coaching centers in the same building with the same teachers and for the same students. That is not all – these schools prey on the insecurities of the unemployed educated youth. Many teachers in private schools narrate their ordeal about the peanuts they get as salary while as they sign on fat sums as wages taken that schools later show as expenditure.
The private schools in Valley have also failed to show some camaraderie with the society during the difficult time of floods in 2014 and during the five-month uprising this year. Despite public outcry and court intervention, most of the schools extracted exorbitant dues from parents, for the times when no schooling was possible. Expecting order and commitment towards the future generation from these schools would be too much considering the main purpose of setting up of these schools.
In the present scenario it becomes even more imperative for State administration to intervene and impose checks and balances on the functioning of private schools. But here also most schools have learned how to work around the system. Many schools have influential people and politicians as honorary members on their governing boards. And also people at the helm of affairs who can take action against the irregularities in private schools are kept in good humor by one way or the other by the school administrations. Further, the demand for securing admission in few elite public schools in Valley is such, that no one can even imagine State going against these schools. In view of the fact that most of the kids of people at the helm of affairs also study in these schools, the State acting against these schools for exorbitant fee structure and other irregularities becomes even less probable.
In view of these facts, government-run schools would have been a good alternative. Infact, the schools in most of the rural and far-flung areas in Kashmir are run by the government. But considering the means and resources available to government, the performance of government-run education sector has remained abysmal. There is no denying the fact that many people in the Valley who have excelled in different fields have come from government-run schools.
But at the same time considering the number of students who drop out from government schools, considering the number of students who fail to qualify their board exams, and even if they qualify their poor performance in the exams– there is no reason for government to sound triumphant about few success stories. We can’t forever gloat over the success story of Shah Faesal, who topped the IAS exam in 2014 and forget about his other classmates who may have dropped out or didn’t qualify the board exams.
Besides looking into the functioning of the private schools in Valley, State administration needs to seriously think over the lacunae in their own education segment. National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) in its report recently revealed that most of government-run schools in Valley lack even basic infrastructure facilities. The report while giving details about the functioning of government schools in Srinagar district reveals that out of the total 489 primary and upper primary schools in Srinagar, 163 don’t have toilet facilities. The report further reveals – among the 163 schools, there are 73 primary and 54 upper primary girls’ schools that are without toilet facility.
As per the data collected by NIEPA, there are 20 primary and 16 upper primary schools in Srinagar, which lack common toilet facility. If this is the state of affairs of government run schools in the Srinagar district, one can imagine the plight of schools in remote areas. No wonder some of these schools in Srinagar have reportedly more teachers than students.
The data collected by NIEPA also reveals that in J and K, 47 schools operate under the open sky and 3,742 schools are without toilet facility while as 2,226 schools are without drinking water facility, 20,082 schools are without electricity while as 18,942 schools are without boundary walls, and 10,764 schools are without access ramps. About the sports facilities, the report reveals that only 37.38 percent schools in the State have playground facility. The data also presents pathetic picture about other important facilities like libraries, leave alone the internet connectivity in schools. In this set-up neither can one expect the proper grooming of children nor can one expect the children to excel in studies.
Last but not the least, let’s accept the fact that leftover lot of educated youth remain to teach in primary to high schools in the State. This may be true about the whole sub-continent. There are not many educated youth who aspire to be specifically schoolteachers. Most of the people join the teaching line after failing to get into the other well paying professions. A schoolteacher is not paid well as compared to the teachers in colleges and universities.
This might be also a factor that the education standard in government schools does not see any improvement. Besides providing the basic infrastructure to government run schools, the State must also increase the wages of school teachers so that the best of the educated lot can be utilized for teaching the students in their formative years. The State cannot take the education of children lightly, and only statements and alluding to few success stories won’t suffice. Change has to be real and be felt on ground.

Citation: Hanan,Akmal. Absurdity hits education sector in Kashmir. Pakistan Observer, December 31, 2016.

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