The apex body of private schools in Indian-administered Kashmir has moved India’s Supreme Court seeking restoration of high speed internet which was shut by New Delhi before the abrogation of the autonomy of the region in August 2019.
The Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir or PSAJK, which represents over 3800 schools in the disputed region, said in its writ petition that the restriction on the high-speed internet has severely impacted the quality of education of lakh of students.
“Our students have been suffering since August 5, 2019 due to prolonged school closure which was first imposed in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370 and then extended on account of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the private school body wrote in the petition.
The children in Kashmir have already lost two academic years because it is impossible to conduct online classes with a low speed 2G mobile internet.
The severe impact of school closures and the inability to shift to remote learning has been also recognised by the Jammu & Kashmir State Board of School Education which had to reduce the syllabus by 40% for annual examinations scheduled in 2020 for students in Class 10, 11 and 12.
However, no such concessions are available for students from Jammu & Kashmir who are appearing for competitive exams outside the region where the syllabus remains unchanged and where they compete with students from other parts who have the facility to continue their education through high-speed internet.
“Due to the internet restrictions, many students have been forced to leave their families and live outside Jammu & Kashmir to prepare for competitive exams. Those without such privilege are left to compete with students from the rest of a country, on an unequal field,” the school association said.
The denial of access to education has taken a toll on the mental health of children in Jammu & Kashmir and they are suffering from high levels of stress, anxiety and depression. “For these reasons, we have once again approached the Supreme Court seeking enforcement of the fundamental right to education guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and we hope the court will restore 4G mobile internet access to protect the future of our students,” the school group hoped.
There have been pleas by others for the restoration of high speed internet in Kashmir in India’s apex court but there have been no orders passed on such pleas.