‘I’ve forgotten faces’: Kashmiri students start another session out of school

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When the 11-year old daughter of Shafqat Hussein was promoted to next standard, the 6th, there was no signs of excitement. Rather, it was a usual day: she sat close to a smartphone and attended the online classes for her new session. 

The end of autumn seasons in Kashmir would often mark a finish line for students, leading into a holiday break before joining the next session. But ever since the August 2019 clampdown, Kashmiri students have been pushed out of classes. After New Delhi lifted communication blackout and the clampdown, the Covid-19 pandemic hit. 

For the past two years, students in Kashmir have paid the cost with their education amid fluctuating internet services – losing the essence and excitement of a ‘new session.’

Hussain’s daughter has been attending her new session through online classes. “Baba, I have forgotten the face of my friends,” Hussain recalled her daughter saying. “It was a heart-wrenching moment for me and I could understand what the kids have been going through.” 

It wasn’t always the same

The new session was not always like this. Hussain remembered it to be “a very joyful time of the year” for the students as his daughter would get excited about getting new books, new stationary, and most importantly new friends. 

“From 2019, the students have been attending the online classes. For sometime, the students were managing but eventually they realised that something was wrong,” Hussain said. 

“Everything is allowed to run smoothly,” said Hussain. “I don’t understand why schools are still shut? I think this is the political vendetta on part of the Indian government as a collective punishment to the Kashmiri students.” 

Speaking to The Kashmir Walla, Javaid Rashid, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, at the University of Kashmir, said that the first 12 years of a child is a critical stage of their life, from a behavioural point of view. At schools, he explained that there was a routine for the children to go to school, meet new classmates, and get promoted to new classes.

“The normal routine was further complicated by the onset of Covid lockdown. The powerhouse of curiosity among children was inhibited during this time,” Javaid said.

Javaid said that there have been researches which suggest that the disruption of a normal routine in the life of students have had an impact on their mental health. “It not only has affected their present but it will also impact their adulthood,” he added. 

“I’m not worried about the short term impacts but I am worried about the long term effects which will be in children in their adulthood.”

“Fed up of online classes”

Hussain remembered his schooling and how it shaped him as an adult. “We have failed to provide them the kind of childhood that they deserve.” Over the past two years, Hussain has also noticed behavioural changes in his children. “They have become dull and are no longer interested in the online classes,” he said. 

Now, rather than the co-curricular development of a child, parents like Hussain believe that the education is not limited to “completing the syllabus and getting over with exams.” 

Even if the parents provide children with good tutors, it won’t fetch the same results, warned Hussain. “School is the only place where they actually learn. It is because of fear of psychosis now that they are continuing, otherwise they are fed up with online classes now,” he said.

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