Expresses concern over closure of schools
Srinagar, Sep 4: The Group of concerned Citizens, a non-political civil society group, comprising persons from a cross section of society, including Vice Chancellors and other Academicians, Journalists, Businessmen, Retired Senior Bureaucrats and Educational administrators, Lawyers and Retired Judges Friday expressed their deep concern over the continuous closure of educational institutions, particularly schools for over one year.
In a statement to KNT, the Group of concerned Citizens said that Educational Institutions were closed first from July 16, 2019 for the summer break and then, on deactivation of article 370, from August 5, 2019 till December 2019 when schools closed for normal winter vacation. The educational institutions opened on 5th March, 2020 but were closed again from 14 March, 2020 due to Covid 19 pandemic.
The closure of educational institutions, particularly schools for 381 days out of 390 days during the period July 14, 2019 to 01 September, 2020 has resulted into a serious learning crisis. Now with the closure of schools till ending September, 2020 the situation is bound to worsen further. What worries this Group the most is the huge learning losses children have suffered as evidenced through an informal assessment of academic achievement of young children. The extended school closure has badly impacted the process of learning so much so that children have forgotten the essentials of learning like reading, writing and numeracy. The learning losses occurred is difficult to make up.
The Group understands that the closure of schools since March 14, 2020 was necessitated to save children from Covid 19 pandemic infection. The Group also understands that in order to mitigate the impact, our schools will have to remodel and reimagine the mode of teaching and learning and introduce a suitable method of delivering education through a healthy mix of home schooling and physical teaching, using Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Though digital or online education is no alternative to classroom teaching/ learning, it has evolved as a pragmatic and viable media of teaching during the pandemic.
Digital education has evolved from sharing of text or content resources and students submitting assignments on line to availability of various types of content such as audio, video and multimedia resources. The continuous advancement in the field of ICT and the internet, with virtually unlimited supply of digital resources has made multiple modes of digital education possible, in the rest of the country, with availability of internet facility at 4G speed. Unfortunately, our children don’t have access to digital and online education, in an effective manner, due to very poor and irregular internet connectivity. The 2G mobile internet service restored from January 25, 2020, has very little bandwidth and quite less speed and is not of much use in digital education. Given the necessity of digital education under the present pandemic conditions, it is suggested that 4G services suspended in August, 2019 may be restored at the earliest. The restoration of 4G internet services will facilitate the use of multiple pathways to education, particularly Open Distance Learning (ODL). Restoration of 4G speed internet will also help the people in getting access to various facilities, including better health care systems, create rapport between people and the government, and help in maintenance of land records, grievance redressal and in bettering other public services.
The Group notes with a degree of satisfaction the inclusion of Kashmiri language in the Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR) , a project of Unicode consortium, for preparation of required data, but deeply regrets the use of Devanagri script instead of its own Persian script in the preparation and validation of the data . Kashmiri is written in Persian script in Nastaliq style. While the Group has no issue with the use of Devnagri script or any other script, including Roman script, by individual authors, the introduction of Devnagri script in the digitized official repository raises genuine apprehensions about the future of Persian script, which need to be allayed through an explicit order about retention of Persian script in Nastaliq style.
It is pertinent to recall that Kashmiri, written in Persian script was the medium of instruction at school stage for decades till late fifties when it was replaced by Urdu using Persian script. At present Kashmiri language is taught as a compulsory subject from class I to class VIII in all schools of Kashmiri speaking areas . It is also taught as a subject at secondary and senior secondary stages besides being offered as a subject of study at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Persian script written in Nastaliq style is the standard system of writing this language, and is also a repository of cultural heritage and identity of Kashmiris. Given the cultural , emotional , religious sensibilities of Kashmiris associated with Kashmiri language, and its viable and time tested standard, Persian script written in Nastaliq style, the Group urges the Ministry of Education ( initially named as MHRD) and the ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) to take up with Unicode consortium and relevant authority the matter of preparation of the afore-mentioned data and its subsequent validation in Persian script instead of Devnagri script for its inclusion in CLDR.
In this context the group recalls that apart from Kashmiri many other languages spoken and used widely by people like: Gojri, Pahari . Poshtu, Balti, Sheena, Urdu , etc. also are written in Persian script . As a matter of fact, it is the common script used by these languages facilitates for their learning. The preparation of data for Kashmiri in its Persian script, will make it easy to prepare similar data in the above mentioned languages as and when such a decision is taken.The GCC notes with a degree of satisfaction the importance accorded in the National Policy on Education , 2020 to mother tongues /home languages , the retention of Three Language Formula, priority given to teaching-learning of modern Indian languages and the stipulation that “ no language will be imposed on any State” but deeply regrets not to find the name of Urdu language in the entire document even once. Urdu is a modern Indian language listed in the 8th schedule as per Articles 344 (1) and 351 of the constitution. Not finding its name anywhere raises the suspicion about the future of this great language used very widely across the country by all the communities. There is a large number of Urdu medium schools and other educational institutions using Urdu in the country as per various provisions of the constitution whose future needs to be secured to help build a Knowledge Society.
Urdu is the official language of Jammu and Kashmir. It is taught as a language at all stages of school education as well as offered as subject at under-graduate and university level. The group urges upon the Education ministry and the government of Jammu and Kashmir to take all steps necessary for protection and development of Urdu. The group welcomes offerings of foreign languages such as Korean, Japanese, Thai, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian at the secondary level but deeply regrets exclusion of Arabic. Arabic is already taught as a language and a subject in a number of educational institutions from class I to PG level across the country and its exclusion is bound to have adverse effect on these institutions and the people desiring to learn this language.
In Jammu and Kashmir Arabic is offered as a language and subject in a large number of public and private educational institutions. Knowledge of Arabic enhances the chances of employability of youth in Arab countries. Needless to mention that millions of Indians from different States and regions work in these countries. In view of the importance of Arabic, the Group urges the Education Ministry and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to include Arabic in the list of foreign languages offered (or contemplated to be offered) at the secondary level. The group notes with caution the recent approval of the Bill to include Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi as official languages of Jammu and Kashmir, for introduction in Parliament. With the passing of the Bill Jammu and Kashmir will have five official languages, viz Urdu , Hindi, Kashmiri, Dogri and English instead of two at present. The Group strongly feels that the move aimed at assuaging the sensibilities of diverse denominations is impracticable and wonders how it is going to work on the ground. Shall official correspondence have to be in five languages and how far it is practicable?
It is feared that this move may lead to divisive linguistic politics, as competing demands for inclusion of other languages such as Gojri, Pahari and Punjabi have already started cropping up. Even in the case of Kashmiri and Dogri, the question arises as to which of the many dialects of these languages will be adopted. Moreover, none of the states or union territories of India have more than two official languages. The group has genuine apprehension that in the confusion that is likely to occur, Hindi language may ultimately be imposed as official language in the union territory.Therefore, in the context of this latest move about official language policy , the Group urges the Government to revisit the decision and to not modify or change the present scheme which is time-tested and enjoys the support of the majority of the population of Jammu and Kashmir. The Group reiterates the need for reassessment to allay the genuine fears of the people, as mentioned above.
The signatories to this statement include: Mr. Wahid Qureshi, Former Vice Chancellor, Central University of Kashmir, Mr. Hashmatullah Khan, Former Vice Chancellor, Jammu University of Agricultural Sciences, Prof Mohd Aslam, Former Head, Department of English, Central University of Kashmir, Prof Nusrat Andrabi, retired Professor of Urdu, Prof AS Bhat, former Head Deptt of Law, University of Kashmir, Mr. Bashir Aahmad Dar, former Director Academic and Secretary, J&K Board of School Education, Mr. Rafi Ahmad, Former Director/Advisor, Education, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Mrs. Anuradha Bhasin, senior Journalist, Mr. Ajaz ul Haque, senior journalist, Mr. Masood Shah, prominent businessman, Mr GD Bakshi, Krishi Pandit, Mr. Abdul Majid Butt, Expert in Geological Sciences,
Mr. Riyaz Jan, former Advocate General, Mr. GH Kango, retired Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr. Rafeeq A Masoodi, former DDG, Prasar Bharti, Mr. GJ Nehvi, retired Commissioner, J&K Government, Mr GR Sufi, Former Chairman, State Information Commission, Mr. M.S Pandit, Former, Chairman, J&K Public Service Commission.’