Inside a classroom at the Government High School (GHS) at Kaksar village near the Line of Control in Ladakh, Sajad Hussain is delivering a lecture. “Today, I will teach you about democracy,” Hussain tells a group of girls.
As the country commemorates the 20th anniversary of Kargil war, this school, which is in the line of sight of Pakistan Army posts on the nearby mountains, has started to eye a brighter future for its students.
It was in Kaksar sector of Dras that Captain Saurabh Kalia, an officer of the 4 Jat regiment, was captured alive by Pakistan troops. Twenty-two days later, his mutilated body was returned to India. The school has paid a heavy price for its location. Its building was damaged thrice in cross-border shelling between 1990 and 1999. But what will remain etched in the collective memory here is the death of 12 children in 1991 due to toxic fumes released during heavy cross-border shelling, says the school staff. “There was so much shelling in our area in 1991 that 12 children were killed due to the poisonous fumes,” recounts Sajad Kargali, a political activist in Kargil who hails from Kaksar.
However, ever since India and Pakistan declared a ceasefire in 2003, this village has remained peaceful. Now, it faces a different set of challenges.
While the school was recently upgraded from middle to high school, it is still awaiting teaching aids.
“We have students in higher classes now.but we are not able to give them any practical knowledge. There is no library or laboratory for Class IX and X students,” says principal Mohammed Asgar.
The school is being run mostly on donations and most items at its small office bear the name of their donors.
Recently, they purchased furniture from the money donated by an Army unit. “Much more needs to be done,” says Asgar.
Over the last few years, young volunteers from different parts of the country have spent time at the school to teach the children and give them a window to the world outside. The results have started showing.
“The students’ strength has increased to 80 now. Recently, one of the students cleared the NEET and was selected for an MBBS course. After 70 years, trophies have finally started coming our way. Our students are now competing, and winning too,” says Hussain, who is from Kargil and is an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia.
Inside the classrooms, teachers say they never dwell on topics related to war.
“When the Balakot strikes happened, we had our fingers crossed; we didn’t know what will happen next. War is not the solution. I never teach them anything related to war because we know what it brings along,” says Hussain.
“People celebrate the victory (in war). But we know how serious it is. It affected our education, development and everything we had. I think our focus should be development alone and providing good education,” says Nisar Hussain, another teacher, who was previously a student of this school.
Hussain says a big change is taking place in the area and parents have started taking the schooling of their children more seriously. “They are sending students regularly,” he said.