Winter vacations in secondary and higher secondary schools in the Kashmir Valley have been cancelled to make up for the time lost during the four months of unrest in the region during the summer, the state government said on Tuesday.
"Teachers will perform their duties during this period and they shall be entitled to earned leave benefits," Naseema Lankar, commissioner/secretary (School Education) said while cancelling the two-and-a-half-month winter break.
Most educational institutions in the Valley had remained closed for more than four months since June 11 because of the unrest in which 110 people lost their lives in clashes between the security forces and protesters.
"It was a longstanding demand of the teachers in the Valley that they be extended the benefits of earned leave and that demand has now been met," Lankar added.
All government and private educational institutions at the secondary and higher secondary levels will remain open while schools at the primary and middle levels will close for the winter vacations as usual.
This is for the first time since the beginning of modern education in the Valley, which dates to the time of erstwhile Dogra ruler Ranbir Singh in 1880, that schools will remain open during the winter months.
As winter temperatures often fall below freezing point in the Valley, officials are making adequate heating arrangements inside classrooms to ensure that children are not put to any inconvenience. However, parents argue this might not be practical.
"What about the to-and-fro journey in sub-zero temperatures? It is tough for even elders to move about when roads become extremely slippery and it is dangerous," said Gulam Rasool, a parent.
"Bone fractures are common during winter because of slippery road conditions. How safely will the children move about in sub-zero temperatures remains to be seen," he added.