Schools re-open in Kashmir, classrooms deserted

Buses parked in the premises of a school building in Srinagar on Monday. -Excelsior/Shakeel
Buses parked in the premises of a school building in Srinagar on Monday. -Excelsior/Shakeel

People block roads as Govt eases curbs
Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, Aug 19: The students today failed to return to their classes after Government announced that they re-opened 190 primary schools that remained shut for two weeks following scraping of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir on August 5.
Excelsior visited at least 20 schools in Srinagar, some of them were open with skeletal staff and deserted class rooms and others especially Government schools were shut with even staff being absent.
In Rajbagh area of Srinagar, Presentation Convent Higher Secondary School re-opened after two weeks this morning but not a single student turned up. An official of the school said that there are over 1000 students in primary classes. “Only one student showed up at the main entrance of the school and when she saw no other student here, she also went back. 15 teachers reported to the school but they went back”, the official said.
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The Burn Hall School in high security zone of Sonawar is barricaded and teachers faced difficulty in reaching the school. “I reached the school with great difficulty and found not a single student at the school. Only two dozen teachers had reported but majority of them went back”, said a teacher.
“How can students come to the classes in such a volatile situation. This will endanger lives of children. Let the situation normalize first, then schools can be re-opened”, the teacher said.
The scene at two other Missionary schools of Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson at Sheikhbagh Lal Chowk, where over 2000 students study in primary classes was the same.
In high security Shivpora area which is near Army headquarters, the Government school was locked and no staff was present there.
However, Kendriya Vidyalaya school at the Badami Bagh Cantonment area was functioning. “Twelve students were present in the school out of around 350. Our staff is mostly non-local and they live in the vicinity and had reported to the school”, said a school official.
For parents safety of their children is the priority. One of the parents said that they can’t risk the lives of their children in such a volatile situation. “Our children are safe inside their homes. If they go to school who can guarantee their safety”? a parent asked.
In the meantime, landlines that were restored in Partap Park area of Srinagar where most of the newspaper and journalists have offices were again snapped. The landlines were working in the morning for about an hour and then in the afternoon they were dysfunctional.
The landlines to the two main hospitals of Srinagar, SMHS and SKIMS are yet to be restored. An official at the hospital said that they are finding it difficult to work without communication. “The landlines are restored in parts of Srinagar but the hospitals are not priority for the Government”, he said.
The curfew restrictions were eased in majority of the areas in Srinagar city but people blocked the roads in these areas leading to complete blockade of road network in various city areas.
At least eight persons were admitted to hospitals with stone and pellet injuries in Srinagar. Two of them were from Srinagar and rest of them from South Kashmir. An official said that at least two dozen stone pelting incidents were reported from across the Valley.
Director Information Syed Sehrish Asgar said that at Srinagar’s Civil Secretariat 98% of staff were in attendance today. “Attendance figures in all the Government offices are picking up rapidly,” she said at the press briefing.
However, sources said that only 1,830 of the Secretariat’s more than 3,800 staff came to work on today.
Director School Education, Yunis Malik said that compared to students, a far larger proportion of school staff had come to work, ranging up to 70% in some parts of the Valley. “The presence of staff is an encouraging sign for us, hopefully in coming days the attendance (of students) will improve,” he said at a press conference.
He added that in Shopian, South Kashmir, a dozen schools were open today, but attendance was zero. He said that authorities planned to open middle-schools in the Valley on August 21.
“The situation is being monitored very closely, and the situation is returning to the normal,” Deputy Inspector General of Police, Central Kashmir, VK Birdi said at the briefing. He said that there was no major law and problem in the Valley today.