As burning of schools continues, the Jammu and Kashmir government has issued a circular asking its lower-rung employees and even teachers to safeguard educational institutes after arsonists set ablaze 27 schools in the Kashmir Valley in the last few weeks.
The Ministry of Education led by Naeem Akhtar has come under harsh criticism for failing to protect the school buildings, recently burned down by arsonists in south and central Kashmir. The separatist leadership has even accused them of "plotting conspiracy to malign the ongoing movement in Kashmir".
A circular, issued by the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) on Wednesday, said the head of the institutes have been asked to prepare a duty roster of night watchmen, existing Contingent Paid Workers (CPWs) and local teachers (day time) to ensure that one employee is “physically present” in a school round the clock.
Since the uprising, 27 schools across Kashmir Valley have been burnt by unknown arsonists. Majority of these buildings were set on fire in the middle of the night and the latest incident to take place was at Ganderbal area in central Kashmir, but timely intervention of the residents saved the school building.
The state government passed this directive after the high court issued directives to the state government to safeguard the schools and take immediate steps to prevent further loss and the recurrence of such incidents. Now the government has also directed Chief Education Officers of all the districts to profile all schools falling in their jurisdiction based on their vulnerability.
On Wednesday, all the school heads were directed by the concerned Chief Education Officers (CEOs) to submit the list of employees, including teaching and non-teaching staff, besides the class IV and orderly employees for their “night duty” in schools. The CEOs have asked the school heads to prepare a daily roster of chowkidars and other lower rung employees for the night duty in their respective schools.
“As per the roster, the teachers have been assigned to monitor and ensure chowkidars are present in the school. School heads have been asked to depute laboratory and library bearers for the job in case chowkidars are not available in schools,” the officials said.
Though the schools heads have opposed the move, given the location of educational institutions in sensitive and hypertensive areas, the CEOs have asked them to ensure safety of schools and take responsibility.
Director School Education Kashmir (DSEK) Ajaz Ahmad Bhat said the women teachers will be exempted from the duty roster. Moreover, the government will ensure police patrolling in hyper-sensitive areas. “We have talked to police. They will patrol in hyper-sensitive and sensitive areas to keep a vigil and protect schools,” he said.
MLA Langate Sheikh Abdul Rashid, who was a civil engineer before joining politics, on Wednesday, expressed deep anger over the orders issued by the government that teachers along with chowkidars will have to stay during night in the schools to protect them from burning.
In a statement, Rashid said, “It is condemnable and insulting that teachers have been reduced to the level of chowkidars.”
He added that it puts lives of teachers at risk and people should protest against the move.