Schools reopen in Indian Kashmir after 31 months

By Shah Abbas

Srinagar, India, Mar 2 (EFE).- Schools in Indian-administered Kashmir, closed in 2019 due to security reasons and in the subsequent year on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, re-opened on Wednesday after 31 months.

“The J&K (Jammu and Kashmir) government has decided to reopen all the schools for routine class work (offline) from March 2,” an official statement issued a couple of days earlier said.

The statement directed the heads of schools to strictly follow Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) in order to protect the students.

The only Muslim majority region in India was bifurcated into two territories to be governed by New Delhi directly by means of a piece of legislation called the Jammu and Kashmir Re-organizational Act 2020 by the right-wing Hindu government led by Narendra Modi on Aug. 5, 2019.

The removal of the state’s special status drew widespread opposition by the locals and was followed by the longest-ever communication blockade, strict restrictions and mass arrests of political leaders, activists and students.

Although the restrictions were eased after around six months, the schools remained closed on account of the winter vacations.

However, by then, Covid-19 had started spreading in the region prompting the authorities to keep the schools shut.

Although colleges and universities partially resumed classes last year, schools were not allowed to open due to the second wave of Covid-19.

Hundreds of parents were seen on Wednesday morning near school gates and bus stops to wish their children luck.

According to witnesses, the authorities have decorated most of the schools in Srinagar, the largest city – and its outskirts with colorful flags and balloons to create a festive atmosphere for the children.

“The pandemic is and was a worldwide situation, but ours is a different case,” Aqib Rasool, parent of a class 9 student, told EFE outside a private school.

“The world outside somehow managed their children’s education but our children could not even access online classes due to internet curbs,” he added.

Divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, the region was subjected to the world’s longest internet shutdown after being stripped of its semi-autonomous status in August 2019.

Although high-speed internet services were restored in February 2021, the region continued to experience internet shutdowns off and on whenever any situation arose.

According to government officials, schools in Kashmir were opened in March 2020 and 2021 but were closed within two weeks or so due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“My daughter was a class 7 student when she last attended classes at her school. Now she is in class 10 and has no idea even about her classmates,” Suhail Ahmad, another parent, told EFE.

Educationists and psychologists believe that teachers may face problems while dealing with students who’re returning to school after such a long gap.

“School-going children have become obsessed with mobile phones and laptops while attending online classes and playing games for so long. Now teachers have the responsibility to bring them out of the virtual world,” a private school principal said.

“Teachers have to adopt a friendly approach with their students and take the utmost precautions while dealing with them, otherwise children will react adversely,” Dr. Iftikhar, a psychologist, told EFE.

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