Srinagar: The Directorate of Health Services Kashmir and the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) have joined hands to make educational institutions tobacco free across Kashmir.
In this regard, the DSEK held a divisional level sensitization training programme for officers of School Education Department regarding the ill effects of the Tobacco products and implementation of Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution (COTPA)-2023.
The initiative has been taken in view of the increasing trend among youth getting addicted towards tobacco use. The DHSK and DSEK on Thursday deliberated on the issue and chalked out strategies to control the use of tobacco by school going children.
For this, the DSEK has asked the Chief Education Officers (CEOs) to conduct regular inspections of the schools to ensure that there is no use of tobacco products in the schools. Instructions have been also passed to ensure that no shopkeeper is allowed to sell the tobacco products within the vicinity of the schools.
"Heads of the institutions are authorised to impose a fine from shopkeepers selling tobacco within 100 yards of the educational institution," Director School Education Kashmir, Tasaduq Hussain Mir told reporters on the sidelines of the programme.
He said the department has already established health and wellness institutions in all the educational institutions which are monitored by the heads of the institutions.
“We are taking suggestions from the health department and the guidelines, as per law will be implemented in all the schools to ensure that all schools are tobacco free,” he said.
He said the heads of the schools or the nodal teacher can impose a fine on the shopkeeper who will be found selling tobacco products within 100 yards of the school.
Meanwhile, Dr Mir Mushtaq Ahmad who is the state nodal officer of Tobacco Control programme said the latest surveys have revealed that the youth who are in the age group 15 to 16 years are more addicted to use of tobacco products.
"We believe that consuming tobacco products is a gateway towards drug addiction and in view of this we held a sensitisation programme with DSEK and CEOs on implementation of COTPA guidelines," he said. He said the efforts of DHSK and the DSEK are to generate awareness among youth and keep them away from consuming tobacco products.
"We will try to reach out to all the educational institutions and create awareness among students about the negative impact of tobacco products. We are hopeful that we will be successful in our programme," he said.
Meanwhile, the Director Education Kashmir while talking to media persons about functioning of the private coaching centres said the department has not registered any coaching centre noting that no fee was fixed for these institutes as well.
On charging of capitation fees or donation by the private schools at the time of kindergarten admissions, the DSEK said the action will be taken once the authorities receive any written complaint against the school.
“The parents can register their complaints with ZEO, CEO or the directorate in this regard,” he said.
About the delay in the implementation of the RTE Act under which the private schools have to reserve 25 percent admission for students from Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), the DSEK said the directorate has sought details from private schools to ascertain whether these institutions are giving admission to poor people or not.
“They sent the details and we will screen the details to ascertain if they provide free admission to students from EWS. If any violation is found then we will take action against them,” he said.
Meanwhile, he also said that private schools can charge only tuition fees from the students for January to March months, noting that the students did not use computers or libraries during these months.
“Session did not end in December but it will culminate after completion of exams. There are initial hiccups in it as this is the first year of transition. As per the previous system, the schools did not charge the fees for these months but now the session has changed,” DSEK told reporters on the sidelines of a function at the directorate.
“But the schools were closed and the students did not use computers or libraries, but vis-a-vis salary of the teachers, the parents have to pay the tuition fees for these months,” he said.