Kashmir’s leading private schools’ body, the Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK), on Sunday said the government move to ban hundreds of private schools in the valley is likely to impact over two lakh students.
“Banning private schools will put the future of more than two lakh children at stake. We appeal to the government to review the decision on humanitarian grounds,” PSAJK chairman G.N. Var said.
Chief Education Officers (CEOs) in the Valley’s 10 districts have issued orders for “closing the schools operating on state or kahcharie land”. Students have been asked to join nearby government schools. However, the court has stayed the order till the next hearing in July.
Hundreds of private schools in Kashmir have functioned from different categories of land titles, such as Shamilat-e-Deh land, kahcharie land, State land, Ahle Islam land and masjid land, for many decades now.
Mr. Var said the tedious process of seeking No Objection Certificates (NOC), including of land title, had the potential “to collapse the education sector in Kashmir”.
“The notion that private schools run on government land is wrong. These schools run on community and public land, and many are run by trusts, mohalla and village committees. They are mostly community-based schools. The J&K Cabinet’s order of 2011 clearly mentions that such schools should be allowed to function normally,” Mr. Var said.
He said the government’s approach “is not even”. “On the one hand, land is either being allotted free or at subsidised rates to outsiders ready to invest in the education sector. Even Army installations and hotels are run from the government land. Then why are only schools being singled out?” he asked.
Mr. Var demanded that private schools should be given time to regularise land use against a fee. “Education is a fundamental right and children should be free to choose their school,” he said.
J&K’s regional parties have condemned the move. Former Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti accused the Lieutenant-Governor’s administration of “waging war on the education sector by issuing such diktats”.
“Earlier, schools run by the Falah-e-Aam, an affiliate of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami, were banned. Is Jamaat-e-Islami a criminal organisation? Do they give arms training in schools? These schools are teaching students as per the modern syllabus issued by the government. Unlike other schools in the country, they do not train people in trishul and talwar ,” Ms. Mufti said.
Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari said that the government should not punish students. “The government should talk to schools and regularise their allotments by charging money, wherever necessary,” Mr. Bukhari said.