FOUR months since the lockdown in the Valley after the Union government’s August 5 decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, children are getting back to schools in Srinagar, but in casual dress. Transport facility is available only on select routes, and attendance is not mandatory.
The administration had ordered the opening of schools in a gradual manner once restrictions across the Valley were eased weeks into the shutdown. But students had largely stayed home, with parents unwilling to risk sending them in the absence of mobile connectivity.
“Classes have commenced since the last one week and the attendance is around 70 per cent in Class X and 60 per cent in Class IX,” Mohammed Yousuf Wani, Chairman of Green Valley School located in Buchpora area of Srinagar told The Indian Express.
Students come on their own transport wearing casual dress. “Our school is currently not providing transport facilities because buses have to pass through the old city,” Wani said. Srinagar’s old city has been witnessing regular stone throwing incidents.
In J-K Public School, while teachers and other staff returned to work much earlier, students had kept away. “From last few days, in the higher classes, students have started attending the classes. Only Classes VIII, IX and IX are functional at present,” says Tariq Ahmad Kuchey, Chairman of J-K Public School in Srinagar.
However, the school maintains there is no “compulsion” to attend. “It’s the choice of a parent, if they want to send their kids to school,” Kuchey said.
Parents, however, remain anxious and worried about the safety of their children. “I come every morning to drop my son and then my wife comes in the afternoon to pick him back.,” said Imran Ahmad, a parent waiting outside the Srinagar’s Burn Hall School in Srinagar. “I have the option to send him by bus, but prefer to drop him. We are extra cautious, what if the bus is attacked somewhere. We can’t take any risk.”
An official from the prestigious Christian missionary Burn Hall School told The Indian Express that attendance has crossed 50 per cent. “Our school is functional for the last few months and the number of students have increased now. Students don’t wear uniform though,” the official said.
A Class VII student from Presentation Convent Higher Secondary school, who didn’t reveal her name said that she started attending the school recently. “If the situation is bad, my parents don’t allow me to go to school. My dad drops me every morning,” she said.
In other parts of the Valley as well, students have started attending school. “We started this week and the number of students has started to increase. The class will continue till the government announces winter vacation,” said Shakir Ashraf, Chairman of Sanctorum Public School in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district. The school has classes till XII and a total of 1,100 students.
Many schools continue to remain closed though. The Indian Express on Wednesday found several schools shut in Srinagar itself. “Only our main office is open. Students are not coming,” said an employee of New Convent High School in Srinagar.
G N War, Chairman of Private School Association in J&K said only 15-20 per cent of schools have reopened in Srinagar. “If we look at attendance in these schools, it is still very low. Students want to stay in touch with their school. There is still uncertainty on the ground.”
For instance, in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district, parents rushed to Saint Joseph School Tuesday afternoon after rumours of an explosion in the area where the school is located. While it was just a rumour, school authorities informed the parents that school was being closed from the next day for winter vacations for lower classes.
An official in the office of Director, Education said the number of students attending classes in government and private schools which are now open is slowly increasing. Another official in the higher education department exams were on in colleges and universities. “Whenever exams are over, classes will resume normally,” he said.