Reshaping contour of quality education in Kashmir

Skinder Lone
January 19, 2017 OPINION 432 Views
Reshaping contour of quality education in Kashmir

To facilitate provisioning of quality education to population in J&K was identified as a “Key Result Area” by Army in late 1990’s. The focus of Operation Sadbhavana in J&K accordingly encompassed improving the overall core social indices through Quality Education, Women and Youth Empowerment, Infrastructure Development and Health and Veterinary Care. A major thrust is to provide education to underprivileged sections of J&K in regions eluded by development.
Indian Army over the years has established 46 Army Goodwill Schools and rendered assistance to approximately 1900 State Government run schools in remote areas through renovation, construction of additional class rooms, libraries, toilets, playgrounds, sports facilities, provisioning of furniture, computers, educational software packages, stationary, and books. Approximately one lakh students have benefitted in years wherein they have obtained middle and higher secondary level education.
The popularity of Army Goodwill Schools can be measured by the fact that there is a growing clamour by local population for opening more such schools and sizeable students are currently obtaining quality education in primary/ higher secondary levels. Approximately 840 students from economically weaker sections are receiving scholarships, the total value of which is a little above two crores for studies in schools within and outside the State. Most of the students benefitting from these scholarship schemes have also been assisted in obtaining admissions in institutes outside of Jammu and Kashmir. Besides imparting quality education the Goodwill Schools are also providing employment to qualified youth of the State. As on date nearly more than 1000 teaching and non teaching staff is employed in various Goodwill schools.
A student of class VII in Army Goodwill School, Pulwama, has his goal in life clear: to become a doctor. That was also his father’s dream. Four years ago, Owais’ father, Abdul, was shot dead by militants. He was a labourer, and the only earning member of his family. Owais felt his father’s dream would never become reality. Thanks to his school, Owais now believes he can achieve his goal.
“This school has given me hope,” he says. “This place is dear to me because I found inspiration here. It helped me overcome the tragedy.”
Army Goodwill School is among the 28 schools the army has set up in the remote villages of Kashmir. These schools are bridging the divide between the military and ordinary Kashmiris. About 5,000 students study in these schools. And they are making full use of the opportunity.
Masarat Jan, a student of class X in Army Goodwill School, treks five kilometres daily from Aribal village to reach her school. She wants to join the National Defence Academy and become an army officer. “My father wants me to become a lawyer, but I want to join the army. This school will help me become an army officer,” says Masarat, flashing a big smile.
Some people do not like the schools. Last year they killed a teacher, Rubiya Akthar, of Goodwill School, Behibagh, Pulwama district. She was from Shurut village in Kulgam tehsil.
The militants have also issued threats to school authorities. “. It asked me to quit my job or face the consequences,” says MM Farooqui, principal, Army Goodwill School. “But I don’t care. I am not afraid of death.”
Farooqui trusts the army, which, through welfare projects, has been able to create goodwill among ordinary Kashmiris. People, now, seek the army’s help and ask for more facilities.
The army’s 28 schools include six high, nine middle and 13 primary schools. The army has spent Rs900 lakhs on these schools.
“We are building another school for children of earthquake victims,” says a officail . The school is coming up at Teetwal in Tangdhar sector and will cost the army Rs90 lakh.
The schools are well-equipped. The facilities include computer centres and science laboratories. “We charge the students between Rs115 to Rs150 depending on the class. Education is free for poor students,”which manages three schools in Pulwama district.
The schools have also helped fight unemployment. About 170 youth have been appointed as teachers. “We appoint them on contractual basis. The contracts are extended depending upon their performance,”
“The army’s initiative has made our job easy. The schools are spreading education in remote corners of the valley,” says joint director, J&K education department. “Seeing their performance, we have recognised all their schools. We have also given directions to our allied departments to process the cases of the schools that are coming up and grant them recognition immediately.”

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