FLOUTING THE state government’s order to re-open schools in four districts of the Valley — Baramulla, Bandipore, Budgam and Ganderbal — from Thursday, schools remained locked as students and teachers stayed away.
The government, however, claimed it was not bothered about the attendance. “Our job was to keep schools available to the students, and we did that,” said J&K Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar.
The Indian Express visited 23 schools in Baramulla district. It was the same story everywhere — locked gates, with no sign of students or teachers. A few teachers were present at only two schools.
At 2:15 pm, the Goverment Boys Higher Secondary School at Behrampora in Rafiabad was locked. The Government Girls Middle School nearby was also locked.
At 11 am, the Boys Higher School in Sopore was closed.
The main gate of the Girls Higher Secondary School in the same neighbourhood was open. There were a few teachers but no students. Barricades had been put on the road leading to the school, and nobody was allowed to enter.
The Government High School in Nowpora was also locked. The Government Higher Secondary Institute at Reban was open, but there was nobody inside.
The Government Middle School Chakla and College School Baramulla, the education department’s flagship school which usually remains open beyond the scheduled hours, were also deserted.
In fact, no government school was open in the twin towns of Baramulla and Sopore.
“They (government) want to get us lynched,” said a teacher sitting outside a government school. “The ministers are afraid to move out of their bulletproof cars but want us to open the schools.”
The parents of students also expressed concern about the security of their children. “Who will guarantee their safety,” said Mohammad Syed, a resident of Arampora, Sopore. “They (government) are doing politics. To show signs of normalcy, they are exploiting the children. If they really care about the children, wouldn’t it be better to stop police from firing pellets in their eyes. This is duplicity.”
The schools were scheduled to open on July 17 after the summer vacations, but the government extended the break till July 25 in view of the protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. On Wednesday, the government announced that schools in the four districts would open from Thursday.
Meanwhile, the private schools have also decided not to follow the government’s order. “As of now, there is no question of opening our schools,” said G N Var, president of the Kashmir Private Schools’ Association. “Our schools will not open till we are assured of the safety of children”.
The government’s decision to re-open schools is seen as an attempt to break the separatist-sponsored shutdown in the Valley.