Hundreds of students due to appear in the upcoming Class X and XII J&K board examinations in Kashmir have been protesting against the administration’s decision to prepone the examination in the backdrop of panchayat elections.
The panchayat and urban local body elections are likely to take place in the last week of November. The sudden announcement of the examination has left the students distressed and they have raised two major demands: either defer the examination, so they have time for preparation, or reduce the quantum of the syllabus by 50%.
The announcement by the J&K Board of Secondary Education comes at a time when the entire country is grappling with a pandemic. In Kashmir, the situation is entirely different. The schools have been closed for more than a year – initially due to the lockdown after the abrogation of Article 370 and now coronavirus. Secondly, due to the absence of high-speed internet, students have not been able to properly attend online classes.
“They are commencing our examinations in this pandemic situation so that the school buildings are free for the upcoming elections. We, students, have not seen schools since last August and they want us to appear for the examinations. Our online classes have been a myth where the video gets paused after every minute. If the administration was so concerned, they should have at least provided us with 4G so that we could study without any issues,” said Sabia Hamid, a class 12th student from Srinagar.
For the last one week, students are taking out rallies every day, raising slogans and holding placards in protest against the J&K education board and the union territory’s administration. One of the slogans they have been repeatedly chanting is--“There is only one solution; syllabus reduction, syllabus reduction.”
“We want our examinations to be conducted towards the end of November. If that isn’t possible due to elections, then the examination should be conducted in the first week of February. And our syllabus should be reduced by 50%. We are depressed and the examinations are crucial for our careers,” said another student from Class 10th wishing anonymity.
In 2016, after the killing of Burhan Wani, which resulted in a year of unrest, students were given 50% relaxation in the syllabus and the examinations were held in December. Moreover, students belonging to disadvantaged families and living in far-flung areas are calling the preponement of examinations as “discriminatory”.
“I and many other students in my villages don’t even have smartphones. We were unable to attend online classes. We have not even covered the syllabus. This blindfolded approach of the government has kept our careers on stake. Students have plunged into depression,” said a student from Astan Marg Dara village.
Notably, the examinations for the summer zone areas of Jammu division will be held in the month of February, whereas for Kashmir and winter zone areas of Jammu, the examinations are generally held in December owing to weather conditions such as heavy snowfall.
Political parties in Kashmir have also reacted sharply to the preponement of examinations announced by the J&K board. Speaking to NewsClick, Youth PDP leader Waheed Ur Rehman Parra said, “They are more interested in panchayat elections than the career of these kids. Kashmir has been shut for more than one year, not even 1% of the syllabus has been taught in schools and the plight of 2G is known to all. Students are anxious and distressed. I don’t know when the administration will wake up from this deep slumber.”
NewsClick tried to reach the chairman of J&K Board of Secondary Education, Veena Pandita, but could not get through.