Early Life and Teaching Career
Mumtaz-un-Nisa Soz, born in 1944 in Khanpora Baramulla and raised in Kashmir, reminisces about her early schooling at Kothi Bagh School in 4th standard. Fondly recalling the days of sitting on floor matting with impeccably tidy uniform, she contrasts the discipline of that era with the present scenario in schools.
“I do not exactly remember my early primary classes but I remember that I was a student of Kothi Bagh School in class four. I don’t remember if it was a high school or middle school. Actually my father was working in AG’s office Srinagar so we were here and my mother who was working in the education department was having some training programme for two years in Srinagar so this is how I got admitted in Srinagar school,” Mumtaz says.
For her, going to Kothi Bagh School was first experience of the school.
Later, she passed her 10th class in Government High School Baramulla following which she initially pursued a medical course but later switched to humanities, completing her FA and eventually graduating as a private candidate.
“We went back to Baramulla and I passed my 10th class exam from government high school Baramulla which is now GHSS Baramulla. After completing my 10th class exam my father wanted me to opt for a medical course and I was admitted to Boys College Sopore. I was there for two to three months but when I started taking my practical classes I did not like it and I told my father that I will not continue with the medical stream,” recalls Mumtaz.
She later did her graduation as a private candidate.
Joining the teaching profession before completing her graduation, Mumtaz’s journey took her to Jammu for B Ed training.
The disciplined environment and teaching practices at the Teacher Training College left a lasting impact on her, contributing to her subsequent promotions within the Education Department.
Mumtaz continued her education, pursuing M Ed and MA in Urdu from the University of Kashmir (KU) and later joining Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in 1965.
However, due to the prevailing war conditions, she returned to Kashmir and completed her education at KU.
Despite facing challenges, Mumtaz excelled in her academic pursuits and served as a government teacher while pursuing her degrees.
“After qualifying my class 12th, I got my job as a teacher before my graduation. I got my job and as and when I completed my graduation as a private candidate I was deputed for B Ed Training by the department
to Jammu. In between I got married as well after completing my graduation,” she says. “I cannot forget that college and Mahinder Singh was the principal of that college. I joined the college in 1662 or 1963. We would start the day with morning assembly. The teaching practice which we did that time was marvellous.”
Mumtaz says that the training she received from Jammu colleges made her realise how important the B Ed course was for someone who wants to be a teacher.
“That training helped me get a promotion in the department,” she recalls.
In the early 1960s, Mumtaz recalls the days spent at Teacher Training College Jammu and remembers the communal harmony which prevailed in the college.
“Among 189 teachers deputed for B Ed, I was the only Muslim girl there. But they were very friendly with me. It was like a second home for me,” she says.
As Mumtaz was married prior to joining B.Ed course in Jammu, she recalls the struggle of taking care of a baby and side by side joining the course as well.
“When I told the college principal that I have a new born daughter, he resisted to admit me saying that it will be difficult for me to continue but I lied to him that my daughter is with my mother in Kashmir. In reality my daughter was with me in Jammu and one helper Jabbar was with me who would take care of my daughter,” she says.
After completing here B Ed, Mumtaz joined AMU in 1965 but before the course would start, she recalls how all the candidates were asked to shift back to their respective places.
“I was very difficult and everyone was asked to go back home. It was some war and we were not allowed to use electricity and all. And I remember that time I was a mother of two kids,” Mumtaz says. “So I came back and in 1966 I joined KU to complete my M.Ed where Agha Ashraf Ali was my HoD. There were 13 students for M.Ed and only seven students got through.”
The academic journey of Mumtaz did not stop here, she did her MA in Urdu from KU as a private candidate and later got admission in MA English as well.
“But I appeared only in the previous exam and later did not appear in the final exams. I left the course inn midway,” she says.
While pursuing all her degrees, Mumtaz was already recruited as a government teacher.
She got it after completing her class 12th exam.
“The degrees which I obtained from KU or when I joined AMU, I got a leave without pay sanctioned,” she says.
Career in Education Department
Mumtaz’s career in the education department included her role as Headmistress at GHS Budgam, Inspector of Schools, Joint Director, and the Director School Education Kashmir.
She navigated challenges, including a difficult situation in Budgam, showcasing her determination to balance her career and personal life.
Her journey led her to Amira Kadal HS and Kothi Bagh School.
She eventually served as Joint Director and Director of School Education Kashmir before retiring in 2001 or 2002.
“While working as a teacher, I was promoted as Headmistress at GHS Budgam I think in 1967 or 1968 and I remained in Budgam for one month. But my officers pressured me either to complete M Ed or remain as headmistress at Budgam School. It was a very difficult situation as they wanted to promote somebody else, I will not name that candidate,” she recalls.
Caught in a dilemma, Mumtaz remembers the day when she approached the advisor who would head the Education Department those days.
“I met him at his residence and told him that I had gone to AMU and spent so much money but had to come back because of the war. I told him that I joined Budgam and also apprised him that I am without salary
for six months. I told him that I have only three months left to complete my M Ed. After that I will join the department,” she says.
The interaction proved fruitful for Mumtaz as she was allowed to complete her M Ed course.
“The advisor ordered that I may be allowed to complete the degree. But after this I was shifted from Budgam to Handwara where I spent three to four months. In the meantime, a meeting was called by the then Director Education. We attended the meeting and she interacted with me for some time and asked me about the master grades available in my school and the availability of non teaching staff. I told her that one
teacher is managing the job of a clerk,” she says.
Next day after the meeting with DSEK, Mumtaz was again transferred to Baramulla as inspector of the school.
“I resisted joining, as there was some scandal reported. I shared with my husband that he also did not agree. That time my husband was a professor in Sopore College. He came to Srinagar and requested the
Private Secretary of the Director but he was asked not to interfere as the Director has decided about it,” she recalls. “So I joined as inspector of school for a long time till my husband joined politics as he applied for premature retirement and we shifted to Srinagar and I joined Amira Kadal HS and also joined Kothi Bagh School as well. It was in 1985 when he joined politics. I served the department as Joint
Director in 1994 and Director in 1998. Later I retired from services in 2001 or 2002 as Director Education.”
At one point of time Mumtaz was asked to fight election from Baramulla on NC ticket but her friend did not let her go with the decision.
“A very good friend of mine who was a Kashmiri Pandit did not allow me to go into politics. She was a very nice person and told me that I should not contest elections and leave the government services. She
made me understand that elections happen after every five to six years and I had only six years of service left. She told me to decide about joining politics after my retirement but not at that stage when I was in government service. She was wise enough to make me understand that I should not lose the pension. So I decided I will not fight the election after retirement but you know what happened afterwards,” she says.
Life Changes and Challenges
Reflecting on the changing dynamics in Kashmir, Mumtaz notes the transition from joint to nuclear families and the impact of Kashmiri Pandits leaving the region.
Despite these changes, she maintains connections with her Kashmiri Pandit friends.
“Life in Kashmir has changed tremendously. Earlier, all relatives would live together but now it has changed to nuclear families. One more factor was Kashmiri Pandits leaving Kashmir which had an impact on
Kashmir,” Mumtaz says.
Even after 30 years, she has kept her bond intact with her Kashmiri Pandit friends.
“To be very honest, I had so many Kashmiri Pandit friends and even at this point of time many people among them still call me and we are still in touch,” Mumtaz says.
She did not keep her life confined to Kashmir or within the country but her exposure to foreign countries, including multiple visits to the US, the UK, New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh provided her with
diverse perspectives on development and societal issues.
“I have been to the US seven times but not at the cost of my profession. It was my personal visit during winter months. I visited Bangladesh, Pakistan, London, New Zealand and many other places,” Mumtaz says.
Post-Retirement and DPS Budgam
Post-retirement, she has been actively engaged, emphasising that she has never enjoyed a Sunday at home.
“I have never enjoyed a Sunday at home after my retirement,” Mumtaz says.
However, post her retirement, the idea of establishing Delhi Public School (DPS) Budgam originated during a conversation in Delhi, where friends suggested the need for a good school in every district.
This led to the establishment of DPS Budgam in 2008, starting in the building of Mumtaz’s B Ed College and later expanding to its own campus.
Despite initial plans for a smaller school, DPS Budgam exceeded expectations with over 3000 enrollment.
Mumtaz acknowledges the support of her husband Saifuddin Soz and the motivation she received from former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed to contribute to education in Budgam.
“I had an idea of establishing a school but at a very small scale. I had my pension and gratuity besides my house in Baramulla. I sold that house and then my husband also helped me at various stages and started DPS and since then I have not seen day and night,” she says.
After getting persuaded by her friends, DPS Budgam came into existence in 2008.
Education Then and Now
Mumtaz laments the decline in the educational atmosphere, emphasising the lack of communication between parents and children.
She criticises the trend of private tuitions and advocates for government intervention to close coaching centers during school hours.
Despite financial challenges, Mumtaz highlights the advancements in DPS Budgam, including the installation of a swimming pool and heating arrangements in classrooms.
“When I was a student myself, the educational scenario was totally different but it has gone down in various ways now. Those days there was a different atmosphere of education. These days students do not
listen to parents and parents do not take advice for the goodwill of their kids,” she says.
Mumtaz says that at DPS Budgam, she advises parents not to start private tuition for their kids and rather approach the school management in case they find their kids weak in any subject.
“I requested them not to misuse the money but they are in a rat race,” Mumtaz says.
She says that the parents are enrolling kids in those schools where they get freedom to join any coaching centre while being marked present in the school as well.
“My request to the government will be to close coaching centres from 10 am to 4 pm,” Mumtaz says.
She is thankful to the J&K Bank who provides them money on loan which is utilised for strengthening the infrastructure in school.
“We do not have money but J&K helps us and provides us with a loan which we will clear gradually. It has been around 15 years since the establishment of DPS Budgam and this is not the stage where I can say
that we have not made any advancement in school. We made a swimming pool which took my relatives, whose kids are studying in foreign countries, by surprise. Their schools do not have swimming pools like this,” she says.
Future of Education
Expressing skepticism about the present state of government schools, Mumtaz stresses the need for financial support and effective supervision.
She sees a challenging future for education if the current trend continues, emphasising the importance of practical measures to improve the system.
“As of now, I think government schools lack the infrastructure for which the department has to change the strategy. It is not only that the department will release money for schools only, but the officers have to supervise the utilization of this money as well,” Mumtaz says.
Favourite teacher and Inspiration
“T N Moza was my favorite teacher and I was groomed well under his guidance. I was influenced by some people like Miss Shahmiri, who was very close to me. She was my director but was close to me. My mother, who is a simple lady, is my inspiration. She was a middle pass lady and she served as a teacher in the government sector,” she says.