Students shiver as winter schooling begins in Kashmir

"It was very nice to go to school, but despite wearing a 'pheran' (tweed overgarment worn by locals to ward off the winter cold), I literally shivered inside the classroom," said Shabir Ahmad, a Class 10 student in south Kashmir's Pulwama district.

It is bitterly cold in Kashmir. While the minimum temperature was minus 4.1 degrees Celsius in Srinagar Thursday, in south Kashmir the minimum in most places was around minus 6 and in north Kashmir, it was around minus 5.

Winter schooling began Wednesday in 272 secondary and 373 higher secondary schools of the valley for Classes 9, 10, 11 and 12 even as schools remain closed for other classes.

For the first time since 1885 when modern education was started in the valley during the reign of Dogra Maharaja Pratap Singh, schools have been ordered to remain open during the winter months of December, January and February instead of closing them down during the period due to the extreme cold as has been the tradition.

The decision was taken to compensate for the loss of over four months of classes when schools remained closed in the valley due to unrest from June 11.  The authorities have reportedly sanctioned Rs.25,000 for each school to arrange for heating inside classrooms during the winter months.

But parents and students are complaining that heating arrangements have still not been made for students who shiver in sub-zero temperatures hitting the valley these days.
Parents are concerned as the children have to brave the bitter cold to reach their schools in the mornings.

"My child dressed up early in the morning Wednesday to attend school, but when he came back home in the afternoon he had red hands and a red nose, indicating the winter chill he had suffered at school," said Ali Muhammad, 45, a local contractor.

The school authorities, however, insist that all heating arrangements would be in place within the next one or two days and the students would not be allowed to suffer on this count.

"We have instructed all the principals to ensure that the heating arrangements are in place by Thursday," said a senior official of the school education department here.

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