As Kashmir and its institutions continue to remain under the control and influence of armed conflict from last three decades, its devastating impact on education system is evident and disturbing. Nearly everything considered as ‘human’ can be found in childhood. When this stage of life is happy, healthy, full of affection and properly directed, people are left with the strength to deal with anything. To grow up in an armed conflict is not an easy experience. These conflicts affect millions of children, their daily life being disturbed by adversities that has an impact on their future as well.
In conflict situation the fundamental right of children, education, is one of the serious causalities. All agents of education are affected: the education team, students, family, infrastructure, the school environment, curriculum and the strategies delivered by teachers.
According to a UNICEF report of 2014, it is estimated that approximately 57 million children of primary school age did not attend school in 2011 and more than 13 million of those children are in the countries, directly or indirectly affected by armed conflicts (UNICEF report 2015). It happens despite United Nations agencies and other international non-governmental organisations having prioritized education decades ago as an essential component of humanitarian response. It was due to the recognition that education can play a critical role in facilitating stability, imparting life-saving messages, establishing support systems among other reasons.
Education in Kashmir
The education sector in Kashmir gets badly hit whenever there is civil unrest, mass protests, shutdowns etc. During the unrest of 2008, 2010 and 2016 or weekly disturbances, there has been an irreversible loss to students. Due to closure of schools, the academic session suffers badly to the extent that it causes irreparable loss of study and tuitions to the students. Children become accustomed to violence and frequent holidays. Their young minds get easily preoccupied with bloodshed, tortures, arrests, stone pelting, killing of their peers, etc and they don’t find the violence-free environment where they could settle.
Children rejoice the shutdown calls as they get more holidays. This clearly depicts malaise that the long drawn conflict has inflicted on the minds of the young ones. Moreover, the exposure to violence and armed conflict reduces the quality of education attained by children in conflict areas like Kashmir. Quality education is also affected by the losses suffered by infrastructure, fear of sending children to schools, negative economic repercussions to households and forced displacement.
Frequent strikes in Kashmir valley have obvious implications on the implementation of technical education programmes. Technical education institutions/students in the valley whenever there is unrest are not able to complete their academic/practical work fully within the prescribed period. As we all know that skill-based courses require no disruption in the process in order to guarantee easy transmission of skills. The normal skill imparting processes as well as new skill development initiatives are hampered, resulting in the termination of the initiatives. This consequently affects the formation of generation’s next workforce. The infrastructure development is a key to progress and economic development of every sector. In the same way, a good number of working days are lost due to the shutdowns which sometimes continue for weeks even for months.
Impact on education
Armed conflicts can lower the returns of investment on education, the underlying supply and demand for education changes. The supply of quality education is reduced, for instance school buildings get destroyed or occupied by armed forces.
Moreover, the students find themselves, through no fault of theirs, not only displaced but lacking the opportunities for proper schooling and thus denied a chance to effectively learn and develop necessary skills to become productive members of society. Unfortunately, in Kashmir students struggle to find a good and peaceful environment where their studies won’t be harmed. As a result, for these students the possibility of finding a gainful employment as an adult becomes increasingly challenging and difficult. In addition, we all know that students in conflict zones (like Kashmir) face severe trauma through the loss of family members in violence which directly affects their studies and thus the overall education system.
Due to the ongoing violence and bloodshed, students have to bear devastating effects on their psychological development. Post traumatic stress responses have been documented in students who have suffered loss of their parents, siblings, or their fellow batch mates. The more severe psychological reactions are associated with variables such as a higher degree of exposure to life threat, direct physical injury, witnessing a death or injury, closer proximity to the battles fought on field.
The hope that the world would become a more peaceful place doesn’t seem to be fulfilled at all. On the contrary, the number and intensity of violent conflicts have witnessed a further increase; violent conflicts, wars and civil strife unsettle the developing nations in particular. The extensive damage, as well as the subsequent social and economic costs in the wake of violent conflicts, is a source of concern that the global development objectives which the international community set itself at the beginning of the new millennium cannot be met. This also affects education-oriented development objectives, such as those agreed upon within the framework of the “Education for All’ process.
In recent years development cooperation has increasingly assumed the role of promoting measures for civil crisis prevention and peace-keeping. Less emphasis is placed on the role to be attached to education within the framework of development cooperation in order to prevent crises and establish peace. The contribution which education can make to promote individual and collective peace competence is only to be found on the margins of the majority of plans of action and guidelines in national and international development policies - above all there is a lack of a systematically developed, coherent concept for conflict sensitive education assistance.
The issue of the constructive handling of heterogeneity, which has to be reflected institutionally as well as conceptually with regard to education access and curricula, goes beyond the conventional horizons of classical peace education. As their seems no end to the armed conflict in Kashmir, the development of a conflict-sensitive education system therefore requires a holistic approach, which takes account of the potentially constructive and destructive impact of education in all its manifestations. The transmission of education system in post-war societies like Kashmir can only be successful if there is a critical and uncompromising analysis of the destructive potential of the prior education system, its curricula and common educational practices.