Education is a fundamental and universal human right. Societies should make every effort to sustain it, by any means necessary. States, which are recognized under international law as duty bearers for fulfilling the right to education, bear the responsibility to facilitate and provide education, as well as respect and protect the right to education.
In these times of disruption we have seen how difficult it is to ensure the availability of functioning educational institutions and programmes, and at acceptable levels of quality.
All parties must commit to ensuring that any retrogression is temporary, truly prompted by emergency conditions, and redressed as soon as that becomes possible—so that the recent decades of progress are not undone, and so that the 2020s do not become a decade of lost opportunity.
Education Sector, which is most affected sector in Kashmir valley in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir from last three decades, particularly from 2016 unrest due to the failure of government in implementing student friendly policy.
Since 2016, the Kashmiri students have only attended two and half years in school.
In 2016, the students attended only four months of schooling followed by closure of schools till November due to the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani in July.
In 2017, the schools ran smoothly followed by same in 2018 with least closure of schools due shutdowns, hartals, curfews and other multiple reasons.
It is to pertinent to mention here that whenever any untoward incident happens in any part of Kashmir valley, schools becomes the first victim as schools shut and its students who suffer most, who has to bear consequences of closure of schools.
The schools were shut across Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 following the Abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35(A) by Government of India in Jammu and Kashmir which continued till year end.
The students saw light of schools in February 2020 approximately after seven months of closure followed by Abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Special status. But it didn’t run for long, barely after two weeks schools were shut across Union Territory due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Its June 2021, almost one year and four months have passed schools are still shut which is adding sufferings of students at another level.
The students face physical, mental, psychological pressure to compete with students at national level as they don’t get proper education due to closure of schools for long time.
During the lockdown period, the Jammu and Kashmir Government came up with Online mode of education (e-learning) as an alternative but it is good only as remedy and not an alternative.
Although Kashmiri students are more talented and they can crack any competitive exam if given proper education. But at the same time guidance from experienced teachers can’t be neglected.
The community classes was also an option but that’s not being considered citing Covid-19 cases. Even conducting community classes could have been better option for those students who don’t have access to internet and mobile connectivity.
Further students who have some disabilities such has virtually impaired (blindness), deaf (hearing problem) and other problems could also have learned in better way via community classes.
Children with disabilities (CWD) find themselves at a more disadvantaged situation with the suspension of their educational and vocational activities in the wake of this pandemic.
Children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and intellectual disability require regular occupational, speech and behaviour therapy.
Most centres for special education in India are not geared to provide their services through digital platforms or home-based interventions. Recently the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disability (under the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare) released Comprehensive Disability Inclusive Guidelines for protection and safety of persons with disabilities during Covid-19 but it remains silent regarding the educational provisions for CWDs.
In the absence of socially inclusive education policies for CWD, the trajectory of their clinical and functional outcome would also deviate towards an adverse course, which in the long run would add to the mental health and economic burden in society.
The non-seriousness of the Government, particularly education department towards educating our future generation in a better way has put the future of students on crutches.
Covid-19 is not the only reason schools are shut in Kashmir valley. There have been many instances in the past when schools have been shut in Kashmir valley due to multiple reasons right from 90’s when militancy was in peak till today in times of covid.
It’s the student only who has suffered terribly, despite being so talented and deserving, loses the opportunity to show his talent.
The government is very much aware that schools mostly remain shut in Kashmir but still they failed to frame a policy which can benefit students even if schools remain shut. The government can frame a policy with the consultation of experts to provide education in best possible way without having loss to education.
The decisions made today in the context of Covid-19 will have long-term consequences for the futures of education. Policy-makers, educators and communities must make highstakes choices today—these decisions should be guided by shared principles and visions of desirable collective futures.
Covid-19 has revealed vulnerabilities; it has also surfaced extraordinary human resourcefulness and potential.
This is a time for pragmatism and quick action, but it is also a moment when more than ever we cannot abandon scientific evidence. Nor can we operate without principles. The choices must be based on a humanistic vision of education and development and human rights frameworks.