This year in May when the Class XII results were declared for Jammu Zone, one thing became clear that there was something wrong with the education system in the terrorist-infested areas of Jammu region. Twenty schools registered a zero pass percentage while several others had a pass percentage of less than 10 per cent.
Of the 42,857 students that appeared for the examinations, only 40 per cent cleared it. Those who were given a second chance in the “Reappear” category numbered 20263.
The difference between Government and private schools vis-à-vis pass percentage was also startling. While the pass percentage in Government schools was 32 per cent, in case of private schools it was 63 per cent. There has been one equaliser though. Ten schools each in both the Government and private spheres registered a zero pass percentage.
The figures clearly reveal that education has been hit in Jammu and the two decades of insurgency seems to have taken a toll on the future generations. Bypassing this in-depth way of addressing the issue, the State Government immediately decided to take action against the schools whose pass percentages have been less than 20 per cent. A warning was issued to heads of educational institutions which showed a dismal performance that their increments would be stopped.
Such action speaks of a rather superficial approach to what clearly is a deep-rooted problem. The threat of militancy keeps teachers away from accepting postings in these remote areas. Even if they are posted, many of them remain largely absent or just somehow manage the course work done. While at times their fear is a genuine response to the existing danger, in many cases it has been found that teachers use the garb of the terrorist threat to avoid performing their duties.
Over the years hundreds of schools have been damaged in terrorist attacks. As per the official figures, more than 900 school buildings have been damaged by the terrorists. Across Jammu there have been sporadic incidents when schools during their functioning hours were attacked. The staff were terrorised and teachers killed in front of students. In November 2001, terrorists struck at a school in Thanamandi of Rajouri district. Students were taken as hostages and their 59-year-old teacher was killed in cold blood in front of the terror-stricken students.
In another incident, heavily-armed terrorists entered the Lower Alal Primary School and killed school teacher Gulzar Ahmed for his alleged links with the security forces. One of his daughters was reportedly a doctor in the Army and was married to a Major while the other a Sub-Inspector in the State police.
In the Government High School at Jamalsan village in Mahore, terrorist separated students and teachers belonging to the minority community from the rest and then opened fire on them, killing a teacher.
Such traumatic incidents have left their mark on the entire student-teacher community, particularly those deep in the interiors of the terrorist-infested areas. It is then not surprising that the result of most schools in such areas has been poor, pulling down the overall pass percentage of the region.
Sometimes young school dropouts, irrespective of which community or religion they belong to, are desperately seeking employment and are lured by the terrorist. Senior Army officials maintain that most of those joining the terrorists are illiterates or school dropouts who were jobless.
All such incidents point to a larger malaise, something which is gnawing away at the roots of a safe and secure environment to educate the young. It is clear that the education system can only flourish in a terror-free milieu. Only when a parent in the remote area of Jammu is not terrified of sending his/her child to school, will normalcy be restored. Only when teachers have no fear of terrorists striking schools in broad daylight will they turn their attention to their subjects and their students.