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AMID A shutdown spearheaded by the Hurriyat across Kashmir, following the killing of militant Burhan Wani in July, 573 students of Delhi Public School in Srinagar appeared for their internal exams this month at an indoor stadium inside a high-security zone in the city with assistance from the J&K government. Among those who attended the exams for DPS students of classes 9 and 10 in the Civil Lines area from October 1-5 was the granddaughter of separatist leader and Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The daughter of Geelani’s eldest son Dr Nayeem Zafar Geelani, she is a class 10 student in the school.
Since the killing of Wani on July 8, government and private schools across the Valley have remained shut for 111 consecutive days, with the Hurriyat refusing to exempt them from its protest calendar. A government curfew was also in place for nearly two months. Recently, in an effort to break the shutdown and bring students back to school, the state government had announced that it would conduct the final exams of all classes on time. Parents and students, however, protested against the decision and demanded a postponement given the situation in the Valley.
Over the last three weeks, a number of government school buildings were set on fire by unidentified people in Kashmir with the latest such incident occurring in Baramulla Thursday — the Hurriyat had condemned the incidents.
The DPS in Srinagar, which is one of the biggest private schools in the Valley, was unable to conduct its term exams in July because of the protests.A practising medical professional, Nayeem is not a member of Geelani’s Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Kashmir or Hurriyat Conference, and lives with his family separately in Srinagar.
When contacted, he confirmed that his daughter had appeared for the internal exams conducted by DPS. “Who says we are against students appearing in examinations or attending schools? We have never been against the holding of examinations or the education of students,’’ Nayeem told The Indian Express.
”Once the school decided to hold the internal exams, it was mandatory for my daughter, like other students, to appear as they carried a weightage of 70 per cent marks. If my daughter had skipped the exams, she wouldn’t have been able to sit for the final exams scheduled for next March,’’ he said.
Nayeem said that the school management had initially decided to conduct the exams at other locations during the “relaxation time” allowed by the separatists. “Finally, the venue was shifted to the indoor stadium,” he said.
Nayeem said that the exams were originally scheduled to be held before the protests began in Kashmir. “Due to some internal problems at the school, this examination couldn’t be held then. It was basically a term exam that was due in the first week of June,” he said. Pro vice chairman, Delhi Public School, Vijay Dhar told The Indian Express that exams were conducted for Formative Assessment (FA) 1 and 2.
”Geelani’s grand-daughter is enrolled in our school. I don’t know whether she appeared for the exams or not. Of the 580 students enrolled in classes 9 and 10, seven didn’t appear for the exams,’’ said Dhar, who is the son of D P Dhar, a diplomat and well-known politician known to have been close to the Nehru-Gandhi family.
He said that the school had sent question papers to the parents of students in junior classes and asked them to conduct assessments at home. “This was the best available solution. The parent’s assessment will be further checked by our teachers,’’ said Dhar. He said that the school chose the indoor stadium for the two senior classes as it was centrally located and allowed students and parents to reach on time even in absence of any transport.
DPS is not the only educational institution in the Valley that has conducted such exams. Recently, the Central University conducted internal tests for students in their final terms. “We even ferried some students in ambulances to save their precious year,’’ said a teacher of the university.
The Islamic University of Science and Technology in south Kashmir also conducted exams for its outgoing batch of management students. A University official said the tests were conducted following requests from the students.