J and K schools back on track

Dilapidated buildings repaired, student-teacher ratio improves

In the last five years, 6,000 teachers were recruited in Jammu and Kashmir. DH PhotoEducation in J&K seems to be looking up at last. Dilapidated school buildings have been repaired. Student-teacher ratio is improving, and enrolment rate and literacy are rising.

After over two decades of militancy, the educational system in this border state is coming back on track, though some problems remain, said state education minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed.

At least 800 schools have been damaged since violence erupted in the state in 1990. The damage was so severe that recovery took quite a long time. However, successive governments in the state had restored infrastructure one step at a time, and now the improvement is visible.

The literacy rate in J&K has reached 64 per cent — it was 54 per cent in 2011. The national average is 74.04 per cent.

Sayeed recently said that dropout rate was high from 1990 to 1995, when militancy was at its peak. “Dropout rate has come down to 39,000 from 3,67,000 in the last five years, he said.

“Militants used to burn down schools in the early 1990s. There was an atmosphere of fear due to counter-insurgency operations as well. So children did not get a chance to study properly for the last two decades,” he said.

According to him, the government reconstructed the damaged schools.

In a reply to an RTI query, the J&K education department stated that there are sufficient number of teachers in all levels — primary, middle, higher and higher secondary.

The RTI reply also stated that teacher-student ratio in primary and middle schools is 1:16, while it is 1:22 in high schools and 1:25 in higher secondary schools.

There are at least 1.7 million students and 75,000 teachers in 20,000 government schools.

However, data on the number of private schools were not available with the department. According to a department official, there may be 5,000 private schools in J&K.

“Two decades of militancy has affected education. Most schools remain closed in Kashmir, particularly remote areas, because of regular firefights and curfews. Search operation by security forces is another problem, besides militancy,” said the official.

According to the RTI reply, 4,242 primary and 616 middle school buildings have been built in the last five years. At least 6,000 teachers have been recruited in the last two years, and more vacancies have been referred to the state recruiting agency, the RTI reply stated.

“There is a significant improvement in quality of studies in government schools,” said Majid Qureshi, a Class 10 student of Doda Government Higher Secondary School. “I want to score high marks in my Class 10 exam,” said Qureshi, who wants to become an engineer.

However, not all students are as lucky as Qureshi.

“Studies are affected when teachers are frequently deputed on special duties such as elections, census and VIP visits,” said Sajjad Hussain, a retired principal in the border town of Poonch.

He said that last year, the panchayat elections took three months to complete and teachers were posted on special duty. Then came the census and teachers were again withdrawn from schools.

A good incentive for poor families to send their children to school is the mid-day meal scheme.

“I started sending my son Ayub to school as he would get meal there. Then he developed interest in studies and he is now among the toppers in Class 5,” said Jahangir Matoo of Assar village near Doda.

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