Lockdown puts education in Kashmir on back burner

Students suffering with no hope of secure future in region

Nusrat Sidiq – December 01, 2019

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (Anadolu) – Aafreen Zaira, a media student at the Women’s College Srinagar in the capital of Indian Jammu and Kashmir, is looking keenly at a model paper which has 14 questions to tackle in two hours.

“It is going to be very difficult, how is it possible to attempt 14 questions of descriptive nature within two hours which otherwise was half objective based questions and half descriptive,” Zaira while speaking with classmates who are looking for a possible exam in near future.

Already delayed by four months, the end of semester examination is yet to take place in most of the graduate courses in Kashmir. “For now there is no formal date sheet for the examination. Our exams were to be completed in late August of this year and so our graduation but still we are waiting for the exams to take place,” another student media student Zulkilfah Shakeel told Anadolu Agency.

The delay in examinations has cost students in different ways, some are not able to prepare for entrance examinations. Some are not able to go for internships and some are not able to go abroad for higher studies because of their pending degrees.

Zeenish Imroz, also a student at women’s College Srinagar was eagerly waiting to graduate to move abroad for higher studies but after the Aug. 5 move by the Indian Government to unilaterally abrogate Article 370 and 35, granting special status to the residents of the Jammu and Kashmir region, hopes diminished for Imroz.

“I had planned to go for higher studies but due to no exams, I cannot go now. I had to wait for my degree completion. It is just heart-breaking,” Zeenish said.

The emergency-like situation was created Aug. 4 in the restive region of Kashmir when thousands of additional forces were called in, stationed in colleges and schools, occupying the spaces of students and overshadowing the education in Kashmir.

The students, particularly from rural areas, received a setback in their prospectus of educational career when administrative orders were issued to close hostels of the varsities across Kashmir Aug. 4.

More than three months have gone by when the Narendra Modi-led government scrapped Article 370 and stripped the strife-torn region into two Union Territories. The hostels of Kashmir are still closed for rural students who are facing immense hardships in postgraduate exams which were notified recently.

“We had returned to the university campuses hoping the administration would open the hostels in view of the exams but we were denied entry despite paying hostel fee in advance,” the students of various postgraduate courses at Kashmir University told Anadolu Agency.

For now the students find it hard to appear for exams although the administration at the varsity level asked students to appear for exams in satellite campuses but students from South Kashmir told Anadolu Agency it does not make any difference. They have to travel the same distance to the satellite campus or the main campus of Kashmir University.

Professor Nisar of the Kashmir University told Anadolu Agency because of the bad situation, the decision was taken but we are looking for possible opening of hostels for students when situation will be conducive.

As hostels remain locked down and public transport off the roads, the students are now looking for rented rooms around Srinagar City. “A student from Mechigagran village of Kokernag in South Kashmir’s Anantnag District told Anadolu Agency that he is looking for a rented room in Srinagar for the past few days but the rent which is asked is heavy on the pocket making it very difficult for the student community to appear for exams in the region.”

He also said because of no transportation, students are suffering badly. “I had to travel for four hours to reach to Kashmir University to appear in my first paper. It is very difficult situation,” the student said.

The classwork at schools, colleges and universities of Kashmir has remained suspended after the Aug. 5 lockdown which severely affected the education sector of the region.

“These four months have been hard. We couldn’t read anything at our homes. The mind was already occupied with external disturbances and volatile situations,” Sanam Mukhtar, a high school student told Anadolu Agency.

To break the cycle of uncertainty, the government on Oct. 29 notified board exams for class X and XII in the region with no relaxation in the syllabus.

Insha Manzoor, a class 10 student of the Government Girls School told Anadolu Agency only 60% of the syllabus was completed at the school but after the lockdown there was no scope to go to coaching centers to complete the syllabus on account of the situation.

“Whatever we had studied in school it was not enough to go for the exams but you have to appear for the exams otherwise you will lose the whole academic year,” Manzoor said.

The Kashmir clampdown has completed 113 days without Internet, the longest period in the recent history of Kashmir since the popular protests began in 2008 following an Amarnath Land row.

Afra Altaf, preparing for the medical entrance exam, National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) is heart-broken with the events of the last four months. “I don’t know whether I would be able to qualify the medical entrance test, I had done a lot of hard work but there are certain concepts which are not clear to me,” Afra said.

Afra told Anadolu agency that for now there is no source for her to clear the concepts, neither private tuition nor the internet. “I am in depression as I don’t know what to do. There is no future here for us.”

As the condition of businesses, trade, health care and livelihood remains dismal in the region but the future of education of children stare cluelessly at a blank with dejection and helplessness among them.

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