Come pre-time harsh winter, slightlyuncomfortable summer, political unrest, COVID-19 and/or other natural orman-made calamities, Education in Kashmir, from school- to university-level,from academic to professional, and from extension to research, becomes thefirst causality. It comes with grave consequences – shrinking academiccalendar, compromised quality, academic indiscipline and decayingprofessionalism. Kashmir often witnesses such terrible times and has suffered alot, largely due to our ill-preparedness and lack of contingency plans. PostAugust 5, 2019 students in Kashmir have rarely attended academic institutions.Most of them have even forgotten their school names and routine working style.COVID-19 has worsened the scenario and further exposed our weaknesses inresponding to the crisis situation. If the threat continues and in view ofpossible months long lockdown, education in valley is going to get an all-timesevere blow. Economic crises will deepen. Fear, anxiety, depression,hypertension and other threatening ailments may crop up. This may require someaggressive measures by the authorities like pumping more money into health careand education sectors; diverting largely unproductive research budget to thesesectors and meeting the daily expenses of a commoner. Otherwise, how will acommoner survive this lockdown phase? Enough has gone down the drain. Let ourbasic amenities be improved first, and then only research will be productiveand crises-solving. Or else, a difficult and rather unpalatable choice has tobe made. Letting the SARS-Cov 2 run its course, and adopt the Korean style ofcontainment. Not asking people to stay at home rather stopping mass gatherings> 250, aggressive testing, contact tracing, and enforced quarantines andisolations.
In twenty first century, children and youngpeople are considered as global citizens, powerful agents of change and thenext generation of caregivers, scientists, and doctors. COVID-19 like crisispresents them an opportunity to learn, cultivate compassion and increaseresilience while building a safer and more caring community. According toUNESCO monitoring, over 100 countries have implemented nationwide schoolclosures, impacting over half of world's student population. Several othercountries have implemented localized school closures and, should these closuresbecome nationwide, millions of additional learners will experience educationdisruption. In China, schools have started opening, but the majority remainclosed. In Republic of Korea, following an initial postponement of two weeks,universities have started the academic year. Group and face-to-face classes arestrongly discouraged and universities are offering on-line classes (UNESCOwebsite).
This COVID-19 is surely not the lastepidemic that will threaten school continuity in view of changing pattern ofinfectious disease epidemiology due to climate change. Institutions mustimmediately update their emergency preparedness plans by developing contingencyplans that not only address school-based prevention and safety measures forepidemics, but also identify ways to continue educating and supporting studentsand teachers if schools are closed. At the same time, the global educationcommunity must strengthen monitoring, evaluation, and documentation ofalternative modes and methods of distance and flexible education work, andincluding how they support the psychosocial well-being of learners and teachers(COVID-19 outbreak highlights critical gaps in school emergency preparedness.By Allison Anderson, Wednesday, March 11, 2020).
Till the lockdown continues, can theteaching community of education-starved valley ensures continued access ofstudents to quality education via use of online/e-learning strategies,assigning reading/exercises for home study, broadcasting of academic content onradio/television, weekly follow-up and developing accelerated educationstrategies? Can the ambitious National Agricultural Higher Education Project,SKUAST Kashmir, come to the rescue of SKUAST students and ensures their minimaleducational disruption and continued learning? Can the medical and veterinaryhealth professionals ensure free on-line consultation to thepatients/caretakers? Can we afford to forget education in such crisessituations, and focus on health only? And, should we wait for zero communityspread of SARS-Cov 2 and then resume the routine?
Need of the time is we relook our visionand mission, reframe our policies, redefine our priorities, reshape ourprofessional responsibilities and remodel our health and education sectors forthe greater good of our people. A stitch in time saves nine, or else, Godforbidǃ we may have to go for paroxysmal quarantines to ensure our survival.Well taught by COVID-19, can the present dispensation with a new mindset changethe dynamics or continues with age-old and now rejected practices in allimportant health and education sectors.
Views are author's own & not of theinstitution he works for
Aijaz Ahmad Dar, PhD (Veterinary Medicine)is working as Subject Matter Specialist – Animal Science, KVK Kupwara,SKUAST-Kashmir