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Good news from Kashmir: Education back on rail

Sunday January 29, 2012 06:23:36 PM, Binoo Joshi, IANS

Jammu: Ramshackle and damaged buildings are being repaired, teacher-student ratios are improving, enrolment is rising and so is the literacy rate. After over two decades of militant violence and disruptions, there is good news from Jammu and Kashmir as its education system is slowly coming back on the rails though problems remain.

Not only were 800 school buildings burnt after militancy erupted in the state in 1990 but the system too was shattered with endless strikes and violence.

However, different governments in the state made restoration of education system their priority and have seen some success with the literacy rate now reaching 64 percent, against the national average of 74.04, from 54 percent in 2001.

Education Minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed recently said that the dropout rate was enormous from 1990 to 1995 when militancy was at its peak. "But now in last five years, it has come down from 367,000 to 39,000."

"Militants burnt schools in the early 1990s and an atmosphere of fear due to militancy and counter-militancy operations kept children away from schools in many parts of the state in the past two decades," he said.

"First, the government reconstructed the damaged school buildings. And now new buildings are being constructed so that the schools have proper infrastructure," he added.

In a reply to query by IANS under Right to Information Act, the education department stated that now there are sufficient number of teachers in all levels - primary, middle, high and higher secondary. The teacher-student ratio in primary and middle schools is 1:16, it is 1:22 in high schools and 1:25 in higher secondary.

There are over 1.7 million students and around 75,000 teachers in 20,000 government schools. Data about the number of private schools was not available with the department. An official of the education department, requesting anonymity, said there could be over 5,000 private schools in the state.

"But we were dragged back by over two decades of militancy. The schools would remain closed in the Kashmir Valley, particularly remote areas, because of regular gun battles, curfews and cordon and search operations by security forces, as well as shutdowns," observed the official.

According to the RTI reply, 4,242 primary and 616 middle school buildings have been constructed in the past five years. Recruitment of new teachers is being taken up at fast pace by the state subordinate services recruitment board which has selected 6,000 teachers in last two years and more vacancies have been referred to the recruiting agency.

"There is a significant improvement in quality of studies in government schools," Majid Qureshi, a Class 10 student in the Doda Government Higher Secondary School, told IANS over telephone.

"I am sure of getting distinction in Class 10 this year," said Majid, who wants to become an engineer. His confidence is a far cry when his father Altaf, a poor farmer with three daughters apart from Majid, was in a fix about how to get his son educated.

But there are still hurdles in that path of progress of the state's education system.

"Studies of students get hindered when teachers are frequently deputed on special duties like elections, census, VIP visits etc," Sajjad Hussain, a retired principal in mountainous and border town Poonch, told IANS over telephone.

"We need to take immediate corrective steps on this," he said, noting that last year, the panchayat elections were a three-month affair during which the teachers were posted on special duty. Then came the census and teachers were again drafted for enumeration.

Another incentive for poor people to send their children to school is the mid-Day meal scheme. "Honestly speaking I started sending my son Ayub to school as he would get meal there. Gradually he developed interest in studies and is now among toppers in Class 5," said Jahangir Matoo of Assar village near Doda. He observes, "There is a lot of improvement in schools as compared to a decade ago. But still we have heard that many schools do not give mid-day meals and uniform and books to the poor."

Asif Iqbal, a journalist in Kishtwar area, told IANS that there were many cases in the remote mountainous areas where teachers take children home and make them work as domestic help.

Besides this, teachers in remote areas "rarely go to their duties as there is lack of accountability in this regard," he added.

(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at




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(Photo: IANS/Amlan Paliwal)



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