By Muhammad Ayub Kataria
As the nation celebrated Teachers’ Day on September 5, teachers across the country couldn’t help but wonder how Covid-19 pandemic has changed the education scenario in the last few months. It transformed the space in which the teachers and students operated – conducting classes online became the new normal. One would believe that the struggles have been similar across states for the entire teacher and student community during the nationwide lockdown, but this isn’t true. The pandemic has hit the teachers and students of the newly formed Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir at a more intense level.
No one can deny the importance of education as it has the power to change the future of even those who have had not so great past. A well, educated country has the potential to achieve great economic height and place itself as a global leader. The value of education is such that it has been categorized as one of the fundamental rights by our constitution, but for the children belonging to this erstwhile state it is this right that has always been the first thing to be affected – come what may.
In the last one year, a lot has happened in the state that started with the abrogation of Article 370. The idea of bringing development to the state was the main force behind this move as per the Central Government. It divided the nation– some favored the move while some stood against it but in all this, it was the education of the children that took a back seat. Education institutions were shut as section 144 was imposed for months. The entire state has been under a lockdown much before the world became familiar with this word. Soon, the valley was under the grip of extreme cold weather and as they looked forward to the warmth of March summer, Corona entered their lives. Nationwide lockdown just added to their miseries.
The innocent children of the valley who were trying to become the architects of this nation were once again confined to their homes. For the past one year, J&K has been far from education. Like other states, schools started providing online classes to these children, but poor telecommunication infrastructure combined with restrictions on network turned it into a horrible experience for both students and teachers.
Parents who reside in cities are managing with 2G network while those belonging to remote villages find it difficult to even connect a call. They have to travel several kilometers to make important calls. For them, the idea of online education is still a distant dream.
Commenting on the issues, social activist Saifuddin Pahamara said, “Unfortunately, the situation here over the last several years has left the education of its children in limbo. Students have suffered greatly in the field of education. Many of them have started forgetting the name of the books.” He believes that children of J&K are a century behind in education that will act as a deterrent for them to participate in nation’s progress. The people of the UT are extremely worried. They are really serious about their children’s education and cannot see them being deprived of their fundamental right.
“It has always been education versus the difficult times. We feel helpless as we cannot do anything about it. Our education sometimes become a victim of disasters like floods or earthquakes while at times political turmoil leads to shutting down of education institutes indefinitely,” lamented Javed Ahmed, a student of undergraduate college who thinks that if education institutes are not protected from such uncertainties – be it natural or human-made, then the future will be quite bleak for the student community. And, this will just be unfair!