Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK), which represents over 3800 schools in the region, has filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court seeking restoration of 4G mobile internet services.
The Association said that the restriction on the high-speed internet has severely impacted the quality of education for lakh of students in the entire Jammu and Kashmir.
On 5 August 2019, New Delhi clamped curfews in Kashmir and imposed a communication blackout. The restrictions were gradually eased, however, the authorities in subsequent orders have denied to restore high-speed internet.
“Our students have been suffering since 05 August 2019 due to prolonged school closures which were first imposed in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370 and then extended on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. The children of Jammu & Kashmir have already lost two academic years because it is impossible to conduct online classes using video-conferencing tools like Zoom or WebEx at 2G mobile internet speed,” the association pleaded in the petition.
Furthermore, the severe impact of school closures and the inability to shift to remote learning has been recognised by the Jammu & Kashmir State Board of School Education which had to reduce the syllabus by 40% for annual examinations scheduled in 2020 for students in Class 10, 11 and 12, the statement added. “However, no such concessions are available for students from Jammu & Kashmir who are appearing for national level competitive exams where the syllabus remains unchanged and where they must compete with students from other parts of India who have the ability to continue their education through high-speed internet access,” it claimed.
“Due to the internet restrictions, many students have been forced to leave their families and live outside Jammu & Kashmir to prepare for competitive exams. Those without such privilege are left to compete with students from the rest of a country, on an unequal field,” the Association said.
The denial of access to education has taken a toll on the mental health of children in Jammu and Kashmir and they are suffering from high levels of stress, anxiety and depression. “For these reasons, we have once again approached the Supreme Court seeking enforcement of the fundamental right to education guaranteed by the Constitution and we hope the Court will restore 4G mobile internet access to protect the future of our students,” the Association said.