24th February 2020 was an important day formy family and me. It was on this day that I waved goodbye to my smiling kids inuniform who were off to school after a traumatic seven-month break. I remembertheir plight last summer as their school shoes collected dust and theiruniforms waited in hangers to be worn. I remember their depression, theirisolation and their feeling of loss. They lived without a contact with theirschool or their friends. They lived without touching their precious possessionsi.e their hi-tech gadgets. They lived without their lifeline –Internet. As wewaded through those tough times, I was hopeful about the academic calendar inthe current year. The return of smile on their faces and the swing in theirbodies after a long period of confinement gave me a reason to smile.
But, the happiness and excitement does notlast long for us as a matter of bitter routine. Coronavirus pandemic forcedgovernments in larger parts of the world to shut the schools and enforcelockdowns. The Government of Jammu and Kashmir too ordered for the schools tobe shut. Agree, in the interest of the greater good of the society. To theworld the measures might seem harsh and tough, but Kashmiri children haveendured these confinements and are used to long vacations from schools.Education has been the greatest victim of turmoil in Kashmir. Year after yearchildren bear the brunt of closed schools thus hampering their ability tolearn.
In a world woven around hi-tech gadgets andonline modes of education shutting the schools would not make much difference.However, in Kashmir the announcement to shut the schools came withoutprescribing an alternative method of education or instruction. The colleges,universities and schools all over the world shifted to the online mode butKashmiri children continued to suffer yet again without anyone sparing athought about their need to get educated.
I am a stressed parent who finds it beyondher capacity to impart education to children at home without help from anyquarter. I do not know how with schools shut, private coaching centers closed,Internet running at a 2G-speed am Isupposed to educate my children? There are problems I cannot solve, theorems Icannot explain, issues I cannot sort out and I am perturbed because of thisall. Education is a basic right and so is the right to Internet. Whom do Iapproach for seeking these rights for my children? The department of educationcannot absolve itself of all the responsibilities by shutting down the schools.What is their alternative to the conventional classroom teaching in a scenarioin which we are presently stuck up?
Knowledge is power they say, Internet is agreat source of knowledge especially for underprivileged – its deprivation at acritical moment cuts a great source of knowledge for our children. Even ifthere are 100 reasons for the authorities not to restore it to 4G, education ofchildren was one mammoth reason for restoring it. The department of educationshould have reasoned with the higher authorities about the importance ofhigh-speed Internet restoration, subsequent online teaching and learning couldhave followed.
Many children who are in the career shapingphases of their studies, who need to compete in various competitive tests areleft in a lurch. Wherefrom are they going to get the guidance? How are theygoing to do their practice tests which are conducted online? How are they goingto compete with the world outside where education is accessible by all modesand means?
We are running into second successiveschool closure season and we have, I am afraid, nothing positive in our handsto offer to our kids. Our children are the children of a conflict zone who arepsychologically brittle and emotionally sensitive. Their creativity and talentis getting suppressed. Their routine, their life is getting disturbed every nowand then and they are at a receiving end as regards their education. Theauthorities should have developed special modules and courses for them whichthey could access from their homes. They should have become experts by now inimparting education without schools. We have been hearing something abouttelevised lectures but even after a week gone by, there are no lectures for ourkids so far.
The fate of a generation is at stake andthere are no credible efforts to save it. Should I not be worried?