Col B S Nagial (Retd)
Nation Building refers to constructing or rebuilding a country’s institutions, economy, social structures, and identity to promote unity, stability, and prosperity. It involves the creation of a sense of national identity, the establishment of a functional government, the development of a strong economy, and the promotion of social and cultural cohesion.
Education plays a critical role in the development and growth of a nation. It is a fundamental tool for nation-building as it prepares individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to society. Some key ways how education bequests to Nation Building:
Developing human capital
Education provides individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to perform effectively in their chosen professions, leading to human capital development. Human capital development is critical to nation-building as it contributes to economic growth and development.
Fostering innovation and creativity
Education enables individuals to think critically, solve problems, and innovate. These skills are essential for developing new products, services, and technologies that can contribute to the growth and development of the nation.
Promoting social cohesion
Education promotes social cohesion by bringing people from diverse backgrounds together and providing them with a common language and culture. This supports fostering a sense of unity and national identity.
Enhancing democratic values
Education promotes democratic values such as freedom, equality, and justice. Educated individuals are more likely to participate in the democratic process, which helps to promote good governance and a stable political system.
Reducing poverty and inequality
Education is a powerful tool for reducing poverty and inequality. It gives individuals the skills and knowledge necessary to access better-paying jobs and improve their living standards.
“Encompassing the needs, rights and expectations of youth to the centre stage of the development should be our priority.” (Dr A P J Abdul Kalam). Children are our incredible wealth. Every child born in the nation must be empowered to bloom. Education is an essential element for the growth and prosperity of a nation. Indian Army realised the importance of education for the youth of J&K and decided to contribute in this direction.
In the 1990s, the Indian Army chose to provide quality education to the children affected by terrorism in J&K. The focus of ‘Operation Sadbhavana’ in J&K consequently incorporated ameliorating the fundamental social indices by providing Quality Education, Women and Youth Empowerment, Infrastructure Development and Health and Veterinary Care. A significant push was given to impart education to the deprived sections of J&K. Due to a lack of education, some people were left out of the loop of growth and development.
The Indian Army has established forty-six Army Goodwill Schools and rendered help to about 2000 schools in remote and border areas in J&K. The assistance rendered to schools was in the form of renovation, construction of additional classrooms, labs, libraries, toilets, playgrounds, furniture, computers, books etc. More than one lakh students have benefitted so far. Nearly 15000 students are enrolled in various schools. About 850 students from the weaker sections of society are getting scholarships even for studying outside J&K. Besides providing education, more than 1000 people are employed for teaching and non-teaching duties. The popularity of these schools could be gauged from the demand made by the local populace for such schools in their areas.
For the first time now, 110 students from J&K and Ladakh will get a chance to study in Army-run colleges and schools every year as a part of the initiative.For the current academic year, 100 seats (50 each) have been earmarked for students of classes eighth and ninth in Army schools at Beas in Punjab and Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand. From the next academic session, 100 seats will also be reserved in Army Public Schools in Dhaula Kuan (New Delhi), Noida (Uttar Pradesh), and Dagshai (Himachal Pradesh).
Indian Army has broadened the scope further for provisioning of education to the students from J&K. It has helped more than 565 students to get admission in numerous institutions outside the J&K like Pacific University, Udaipur, Global Research Institute, Kurukshetra, NOIDA International University, Greater NOIDA and Hunar-e-Tarash, a rural ministry initiative. The Kashmir Super 30 project is based on the well-known Super 30 programme. The Indian Army aligned with the Centre for Social Responsibility and Leadership and launched this project in the academic year 2013-2014.
Twenty-three needy yet academically brilliant students were selected from all corners to be trained for appearing in competitive examinations for pursuing higher education in engineering. The results were spectacular. 17 of the 23 students got seats in important engineering colleges. Reinvigorated by the positive impact, the programme admitted 36 students for the next academic year.
Until now, the Indian Army was helping the youth of J&K and Ladakh through the schools within the territories of these UTs under ‘Operation Sadbhavana’. But now, it will be sponsoring undergraduate courses and school education for selected children and youth from J&K and Ladakh in residential schools and colleges functioning under the Army Welfare Education Society (AWES) nationwide. This will help them explore the various career opportunities available in the country and integrate them with the rest.
Seats will also be earmarked for undergraduate courses in some Army-run colleges. For instance, this year, two seats have been allocated in the Army Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology and Army Institute of Fashion Design in Bengaluru and the Army Colleges of Nursing in Guwahati and Jalandhar. While colleges will offer undergraduate degrees in hospitality to both girls and boys, seats in courses like fashion design and nursing will be available only for girls.
From the academic session 2022-23 onwards, two additional seats have been provided in the Army’s Management institutions at Kolkata and Greater Noida and the Army Institute of Education (only girls) at Greater Noida. The students will be offered MBA and B Ed/B Ed special education (only girls) courses in these colleges. All domiciled residents of J&K and Ladakh will be eligible for admission.
In addition to all these, J&K has a sizeable population mix comprising Gujjar/Bakarwals. This nomadic group migrates every year in summer to the upper reaches and lower foothills in the winter. While doing so, they traverse all three distinct regions of J&K. To ensure their children get quality primary and middle school education, Indian Army runs unique ‘Shepherds Schools’, an initiative at various receiving areas frequented by nomadic groups. Children are being given quality education at summer schools located at Tosha Maidan, Jumagund, Mandian & Kundian and Lokut Bangas, Kupwara.
Initiatives like these are comforting not only because of the positive numbers and results but also because in these actions exists a leeway of socially elevating a section of the society which not only suffers socioeconomically but also lives under a constant threat of terror and uncertainties.
Education is a tool that might be very effective in encouraging social mobility. Army Goodwill Schools provide a conducive environment where the character gets moulded as children spend maximum time in these schools. Here ethics of giving to others are cultivated through inclusive education. They learn to contribute to their development and the development of others and the nation. Values such as teamwork, fair play, cooperation, hard work, and doing things right and doing right things, etc. imbibed in them become the bedrock of Nation Building.
Army Goodwill Schools in J&K Helping Nation Building
Col B S Nagial (Retd)