Education in Kashmir faces another challenge: Almost 20 schools burnt in unrest
Officials of the directorate of school education said that 17 government middle, high and higher secondary schools have been burnt mysteriously during the unrest. Of these seven were reduced to ashes while 10 were damaged partially in the fire.Updated: Oct 26, 2016 12:04 IST
Over the past three-and-a-half months, at least one school in each of Kashmir Valley’s 10 districts have either been burnt or suffered damages in fires.Five schools were burnt in the last five days alone.
Officials of the directorate of school education said that 17 government middle, high and higher secondary schools have been burnt mysteriously during the unrest. Of these, seven were reduced to ashes while 10 were damaged partially in the fire.
Besides the 17 government schools, two prominent private schools were also been damaged in fires as Kashmir remained shut for the past 109 days since the death of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8.
Most of the schools have been burnt in the dead of the night by unknown ‘miscreants’. Few have caught fire allegedly after security forces fired tear gas shells on protesters. But security forces have denied allegations of tear gas shells sparking any fire.
Of the 10 districts of the Valley, Kulgam in south Kashmir has been the worst affected with five schools either completely burnt or partially damaged in fires. Three schools have been burnt in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
Concerned teachers in Kulgam district have now decided to guard the schools during the nights.
“Following the fire incidents, we held deliberations with district administration and teachers regarding safety of schools. Teachers volunteered to stay in school premises during night hours to ensure safety of the buildings,” chief education officer, Kulgam, Abdul Rouf Shahmari was quoted in a media report.
Police said that they were trying to identify the “miscreants”.
“It is a matter of concern for us. We are in the process of identifying the miscreants and also putting in place some security measures like area domination to avoid such incidents,” said the state’s director general of police, K. Rajendra Kumar.
He said that there were thousands of schools, so locals also have to take responsibility of protecting these institutions. “The burning of schools jeopardizes the careers of hundreds of students,” he said.
In an official statement, education minister and government spokesman, Naeem Akhtar lamented that the damage to schools is not just burning of an institution but a “colossal loss for the entire society”. “During the last few months Kashmir has gone through a bad phase which has caused pain to everybody,” he said.
Since the unrest erupted in Kashmir after Wani’s death, students have not attended schools for the past 109 days.
The government has decided to go ahead with the exams of high and higher secondary classes in November despite the fact that students have not even able to cover 50% of their syllabus.
The government’s insistence on holding the exams has prompted protests by the students who want the tests to be conducted in March.
The government said it was looking into various options like introduction of more choices in question papers and reduction in syllabus for the examinations rather than postponing them to March.
Arson is not the only issue which is plaguing the education in Kashmir these days. Many schools in the capital Srinagar have been occupied by security forces who were brought in for law and order duties. At least seven prominent schools in Srinagar have been housing many companies of paramilitary forces.
The government has maintained that security forces would vacate these schools once the situation improves.