“Education is the passport to the future,
for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
The Abrogation of Article 370 has heralded a new era in the life of people of Jammu and Kashmir. For years, they were not able to reap the benefits of development and modernization taking place in India. The Abrogation and subsequent policies that have been implemented have opened up a plethora of opportunities for today’s youth. It is important that the present and future generations make the most of it and bring in development and modernization in the valley. However, to make use of these opportunities, the present and the future generations need to develop their capabilities to make them an ideal candidate. Prior to 2019 and the prevailing socio – politico situation therein, very limited avenues were available for the youth. Majority of the youth were inclined to make their career in transportation business, contractors, tourism or get employed as unskilled laborers. Very few were inclined to pursue career in academics, sports, Information Technology, Medicines, Civil Services etc. Truth be told, these professions require a good infrastructure at ground level to facilitate children in pursuing their dreams.
The youth of today is dreaming and dreaming big and wants to have a better life. Live telecast of events around the world, social media and availability of internet have made them realize what the world has to offer and they want to be part of it. However, lack of skills makes them confront the harsh realities of life. It is necessary that the present and future generations are trained to fight their own battles and contribute to the society rather than being dependent on government subsidies. Thus, it will be pertinent that the government focuses its energy towards the education sector which will strengthen the backbone of the society. In this regard, the present education system in the valley needs a major revamp. Big towns and cities have reasonable number of schools and the quality of schools and the education imparted is also at par with schools of other states. But majority of Kashmiris are dependent on schools in their neighborhood in hilly areas and it is here that the government needs to lay emphasis on. Primary and secondary government schools in hills have very limited infrastructure wherein three or four classes are combined and run in a single room. Lack of basic necessities such as electricity, water, classrooms, washrooms for boys and girls and lack of study material hamper the education of our kids. Very limited staff further compounds the problem as only a couple of teachers are teaching all subjects to a classroom filled with students of different standards. The education of students from hills or villages also gets hampered due to extreme winter conditions, frequent lockdowns and at times due to deterioration in the security situation. The students with such education background find it difficult to compete with students who have had access to a better and modern education system. Invariably these students are forced to leave their dreams aside and continue to live the way their forefathers have been living.
The government needs to pay attention towards these students to ensure development of youth. The government needs to have three-pronged strategy to overcome these challenges. Firstly, the focus has to be in providing the necessary infrastructure for these schools to run smoothly. That includes, classrooms, playground, provisioning of teaching aids, electricity, water, construction of toilets and transportation for ferrying students. Indian Army as part of its Operation Sadbhavana has already invested a lot in similar projects and it will be prudent for the government to incorporate the same in its overall planning. Secondly, the target population i.e. villagers hail from low strata of the society and as such have very limited means to pursue education of their children. Therefore, subsidies in terms of provisioning of free books, study material, uniform will have to be catered. Thirdly and the most important facet is teaching staff. Government needs to institute measures to make this a lucrative career option to bring the best in practice. Salary needs to be at par with other professions. Teachers have to travel long distance to reach their schools and at times have to stay with locals during the duration of academic period. Thus, hostel facility needs to be created for these staff. In addition, regular audit of these schools needs to be conducted by the administrative staff to ensure accountability of staff in imparting quality education. A holistic approach over a period of time will prove to be a boon in times to come and ensure that the youth of Kashmir contributes in a much more constructive way towards development and modernization of the society.