Education plays an important role in shaping the life of an individual; it promotes individual freedom, empowerment and yields important development benefits. The academic life of a student starts from school and almost ends at the university level. A student’s life is defined by the grades, performances in exams and finally by the degree one has acquired. However, the accomplishment of these particular goals isn’t easy and involves lot of challenges, stages and hurdles which a student has to face and pass by. A student has to face emotional imbalances in schools, college and universities and this is true about almost every student studying in the world but the case of students in Kashmir is very unprecedented and volatile due to the prevalent situations and disturbed environment. A student’s emotional and real life experience in the educational institutions has an important impact on his grades and academic life and students in Kashmir go though trauma and distress every year. The educational institutions in Kashmir are most of the time closed due to frequent clampdowns and strikes for months together. As per data compiled by J&K Police based on media reports, since 1990, Kashmir has lost significant working days due to conflict situations. As reported by IndiaSpend, Kashmir lost 207 working days in the year 1991 and 112, 130 and more than 130 working days in the year 2010, 2016 and 2019 respectively. This amounts to nearly 60% of total working days. Despite all this, students in Kashmir have been trying to get back to their normal course class work and academic life but, there is an end to everything and courage lasts only to the point of existence and possibility and not beyond.
Due to Covid-19, educational institutions have suffered a setback around the world; and every country is trying to save the time of its students by promoting online education. India too has started this initiative and it has been adopted by the educational institutions in Kashmir as well. But, the infrastructural and technical barriers are always to be kept in mind while starting these initiatives. The internet facilities in Kashmir are always down and as reported by internet tracker website, there was an internet shutdown in Kashmir since August 2019 till March 4th for 213 days and even after that internet has been snapped in Kashmir districts more than 10 times and it’s not certain whether the internet service in Kashmir will continue in future or not. The administration has restored 2G internet facilities and to attend online classes on this service is a futile exercise. Students who tried to attend classes haven’t understood a single word due to low network connectivity and lagging of videos.
The University of Kashmir is however mulling to hold online classes continuously and has provisionally promoted students to their next semesters without completing their syllabus in previous semesters through regular modes and withholding the pending exams. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued recommendations to all universities in India directing them that if situation doesn’t improve till June 15, then universities should promote their students on the basis of internal assessment and assignments, which was later also recommended by Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD). The students have been asking for the implementation of same guidelines from the university authorities however the authorities seem to be acting arbitrary on the issue and do not pay any heed to the students’ grievances. They are left in stressful situation while the university is directing them to continue with classes when even most of the students find it difficult to have access to internet. The students in Kashmir have gone through trauma when clampdown was imposed for now months and now due to covid-19 the institutions have been closed again, signifying the mental agony they are still going through.
The Controller examination, recently in an interview announced that there won’t be any mass promotion of students, relying on the point that University of Kashmir is A+ University graded by NAAC and therefore it’s not in the interest of students to give them mass promotion. However, the authorities need to understand that there is a difference between promoting students on the basis of internal assessment and viva on assignments than simple mass promotion, and the present interests of the students demand the same. The University officials have said, that it will hold exams in the month of June or July while practicing social distance norms as recommended by the WHO and UGC. This has left students in confusion as to which semester they should focus on and prepare, for it’s not practically possible to continue with two semesters simultaneously. The situation related to covid-19 is deteriorating day by day and due to unforeseen situation in future about the virus, it seems impossible that the university could hold pen and paper exams in the month of June or July. In such a situation the university would again want its students to continue with their two semesters simultaneously adding stress and much pressure about the academics and it could devastate the careers of students. The announcement made by the university has thrown students into distress and they are expressing deep anguish about the decisions reached by the university. Students aren’t able to join online classes on one hand and on other hand the university is apparently planning to hold examinations of present semesters on the basis of online classes, which majority of the students aren’t able to attend due to 2G network and those who attend aren’t able to understand due to poor connectivity and unfamiliar experience to have classes online. The university might be thinking and acting on the line to save time of students and provide them degrees on time but a student is to be shaped and mentored while pursuing degree and not to be given a simple paper in hand which will have no value and will be of no use, if haven’t learned core principles about the courses within the campus and colleges.
The point is, the mental health of students in Kashmir is deteriorating due to these situations and no one seems to be concerned about it. Students aren’t machines who would respond to the inputs and demands of the university; the University is for the students and not vice-versa but sadly opposite seems to be true. It is a two way process and genuine concerns and demands of students need to be taken on board, which in the present case reflect in the guidelines of the UGC. A students life is defined by what he experiences in his college and university and if students are exposed to emotional torture and psychological distress then how do we expect defined and well furnished products coming out of universities. An academic institution has to think from the point of view of students as well and give primacy to their interests, no doubt, the university has always thought about its students but these situations demand more responsibility from the authorities and demand reasonable decisions from the authorities.
The university must promote students in their present semesters on the basis of their internal assessments in order to give them a clear way ahead and hold offline classes for upcoming semesters when the situation will normalize, otherwise, the chaos and confusion created in the minds of students will continue and it will have bad repercussions at a larger level.