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In tense Kashmir, students face the brunt of a stagnating education system, delayed exams

Kashmir’s uncertain political and security situation has taken a toll on the region’s education system.

Particularly affected have been the college-going students, who have been hit by delays in admission and examinations, and are hoping that a transition to normalcy will help them to quickly complete their studies.

The undergraduate students of the 2015 batch have been hit, as first their admission into the course was delayed after the 2014 floods delayed their Class XII exams. Then, they had to bear the brunt of the worsening security situation. This is a batch that has had more holidays than actual days of college lectures.

Asif Amin, a student of Mass Communication at the Government Degree College (Boys) in South Kashmir’s Anantnag, recalls his experience. He says, “My classes started in August 2015 instead of March due to the floods. Though we started late, everyone in my class was enthusiastic about the course. The floods had damaged some equipment in the college, but the teaching and non-teaching staff was keen to work around those difficulties.”

Students in a classroom at the Government Degree College in Anantnag. Much of the equipment in the college had been damaged during the 2014 floods. All photographs taken by Dawood Jan

Students in a classroom at the Government Degree College in Anantnag. Much of the equipment in the college was left damaged during the 2014 floods. All photographs taken by Dawood Jan

College-going students have faced multiple disruptions in their studies, but particularly damaging was the period following the killing of Burhan Wani in July 2016 and the six month-long protests. Students who were preparing for their second year final exams during that period suddenly found themselves in the middle of this deteriorating situation, with continuing uncertainty about when and whether the exams would be held. The ban on internet services during that period only added to the prevailing confusion.

However, what made matters worse was also poor academic management on the part of Kashmir University, which decided to introduce the semester system during this period, creating more chaos and confusion not only among the students, but also the teaching staff in the affiliated colleges offering graduate courses.

As a result, during the 2016 protests, many students, especially those pursuing graduate courses, abandoned their education, instead looking for jobs in the private sector or helping their parents in family businesses. Some even quit their courses in the Kashmir University, and enrolled themselves in universities outside the state. But some stayed back, hoping to finish their graduation, and they have a long way to go.

Dawood Jan, who is a student of Srinagar’s SP College, said, “Though we began late, I never thought that it would take almost four years to finish graduating. I was hoping to get opportunities in my field, but the situation in Kashmir has completely ruined my dreams.”

One of the buildings in the premises of GDC Anantnag. Despite lack of proper infrastructure, teachers have made best of what is available

One of the buildings in the premises of GDC Anantnag. Despite the lack of proper infrastructure, teachers have made the best of what is available

Samreena Nazir from Srinagar’s Government College for Women said, “I have witnessed a great difference in the situation from when I first came to college to the period after the 2016 unrest. Most of the students had quit and the rest lacked any interest in graduating.”

Disruptions also became normal for many colleges. For instance, last year when the bypolls were being planned for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, polling officials and security forces occupied some parts of the Government Degree College (Boys), Anantnag, disrupting classes. There were also temporary bunkers being erected in the college premises, forcing some to take their classes outside.

To compensate for the time lost during the 2016 protests, the Kashmir University eventually decided to merge two semesters and hold early exams. But many have complained that this is being done at the cost of providing proper teaching to students, who are finding it difficult to prepare for the exams in a short time. A student who did not wish to be identified said, “We don’t know how we are going to finish our graduation, as there are many students who have a backlog from their previous semesters. We still haven’t finished the previous two semesters. There is a pressure on the teachers to finish the syllabus early. So they are just cramming more and more into the syllabus in a short span of time.”

A sealed window in one of the classrooms in Government Degree College, Anantnag. During the by-polls planned for Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in 2017, authorities had taken over part of the college for polling arrangements

A sealed window in one of the classrooms in Government Degree College, Anantnag. During the bypolls planned for the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency in 2017, authorities had taken over part of the college for polling arrangements

Students are angry with this casual attitude of the University administration, the aftermath of which is not just limited to the inability to study properly during at the graduate level, but also eventually inadequate preparation for post-graduate courses, for which many of these students will appear. As one of the students said, “This degree seems to have given us more confusion than knowledge. The education system is playing with our future.”

Some students have said that even if the final exams are held on time, they would have still lost a year, because by that time, many post-graduate courses will have already held their entrance exams. Dawood Jan expresses his anger and says, “The biggest issue we are facing now is that we are still in our fifth semester, and the University has to hold both the fifth and sixth semester exams by July 2018. Even if they are somehow able to conduct these exams on time, we would have still lost a year, because we will have to wait for one more year to appear for PG entrance exams, which are normally held in the April to June period. But our graduate course will end in July, most likely. We still won’t have the requisite documents to appear for the PG exams, and more importantly, we won’t even have the time to prepare for these exams. This has kept our fate hanging.”

All this has affected the students’ chances of gaining admission in post-graduate courses. Now, they have demanded justice from the authorities and the University by demanding a relaxation in syllabus and an assurance for post-graduate aspirants to appear for entrance examinations.


Updated Date: Mar 16, 2018 16:50 PM

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