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Students trickle in as Srinagar schools reopen

Monday, September 27, 2010 12:45:00 PM, IANS

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Srinagar: School staff turned up in large numbers as educational institutions here reopened after over three months Monday. While the student inflow was no more than a trickle and a curfew prevailed, those who came said it was a pleasure to be back in class.

"I have come to my school after two months. It is a joy I cannot put in words. But if the situation does not improve completely, I fear my parents might not risk sending me to the school just because I enjoy coming here," said Mudasir (name changed), who studies at a prestigious private school here.

"It has been my first experience to venture out of home during curfew. Everything wears a deserted look. Hardly anybody on the roads. My father who brought me to school on his scooter was stopped by police, but after seeing me riding pillion they just smiled and waved us on."

In the majority of schools in Old City areas, the attendance of students was zero, although staff at most schools reported for duty.

The state government had made elaborate security and transport arrangements for the opening of educational institutions in Srinagar where curfew continued to remain in force Monday.

"All school buses carrying children are being allowed to move in the city without any restrictions. Parents carrying children to educational institutions are also being freely allowed to move in the city," a senior police officer said.

"Nearly 100 percent staff attendance has been reported from government schools in Srinagar and the response of students to the opening of schools has also been good. It is encouraging given that separatists have called for a complete shutdown and asked people to remain indoors."

At least 108 people have been killed in the Kashmir Valley, mostly in firing by the security forces during clashes with stone-pelting protestors in the past three and a half months. The unrest led to schools being shut in the valley.

The response of education officials was cautious.

"We are gathering the students' attendance figures from across the city so that we can quantify the numbers. Still, I can assure you the staff posted at all the government schools in the city reported well in time," said an official of the school education department.

Parents had a different story to tell.

"In a city where the authorities have imposed curfew and the separatists have called for a complete shutdown, how can anyone expect children to come out of their own or be allowed by parents to attend school?" asked a parent who, however, made the effort to take his ward to school.

"I brought my son to the school Monday because I live hardly 500 metres away from my son's school. This would not be possible for others who have to bring their children to the school from eight-10 kilometres away in a tense city."

Ironically, schools opening in Srinagar had an adverse effect in rural areas of the valley where both government and private schools have been functioning almost normally during three months of unrest. Villagers thought the publicity would rebound on schoolgoers.

"Today for the first time, I had to think whether it was safe to take my grandchild to school. After the publicity given to the opening of schools after three months in Srinagar, unwittingly the authorities have exposed those children to the wrath of separatists who had been attending schools normally all these months," argued an angry resident of a north Kashmir village.

"Does anybody know that the number of students in rural areas of the valley is far greater than those in Srinagar?

"By creating a hype about schools being reopened after three months, the authorities have created problems for parents whose children had been attending the schools regularly during this period in the rural areas."






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