The lanes and bylanes of Kaw Mohalla in the old areas of Srinagar, which has been under curfew for the past 34 days, are witnessing the joy and laughter of school-going children for the past three days.
Although schools have not opened, residents with the help of few volunteers, have started an informal school in a community centre to help compensate children for the loss in education.
At 11am, Sumaira Farooq, a 24-year-old commerce graduate, is teaching general knowledge to 15 students of Class 1 in a hall. Nearby, another teacher, an arts graduate, teaches multiplication to 20 students of Class 3. In the afternoon session, another set of volunteers — graduates, post-graduates and researchers — teach students of Classes 7, 8, 9 and 10 of various government and private schools.
The initiative was started by caretakers of the local mosque, Jamia Masjid Kaw Mohalla, after consulting 20 educated youth of the area who volunteered to start the informal school.
“Kashmiris are caught up in a storm and don’t know when they will reach the shore. In this tempest, we decided to at least try and secure the future of our children,” said Ali Mohammad, member of the mosque caretaking committee.
Mohammad said they involved caretakers of four mosques, who made announcements informing people about the start of the school. Furnishings were brought from the local mosque while chairs and benches were given by a nearby government school, which is closed. “The number of students has already crossed 300 and it is swelling with each passing day,” Mohammad said.
Like Kaw Mohalla, some areas in Srinagar and south Kashmir have also started such informal schools. Volunteer Sumaira Farooq said the initiative was their way of contributing to the “cause”.
“There are parents who can’t afford private tuitions for their kids, others can afford but can’t send them due to the curfew. Children from every strata of society have enrolled for this schooling,” she said.
The government has been asking students to rejoin schools. On its Facebook page, the directorate of school education, wrote a message for school children on August 9.
“We miss you. Without you, our days are lifeless. Children, when are you coming back to school? It has been a long time since the last morning prayer, since the last afternoon huddle.”