Srinagar: Ignoring a call by hardline separatists, schools across Kashmir Valley reopened on Monday after remaining shut for 100 days due to civil disturbances.
Both Home Minister P Chidambaram and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah expressed happiness at the doors of schools been thrown open again but hoped that hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other separatists would not target students because they are going to schools.
Attendance was however thin in the wake of Geelani`s call to parents not to send their wards to schools and colleges. Security personnel ensured that students and teachers had a smooth passage through areas where there were curfew and other restrictions.
Reopening of educational institutions was part of Centre`s 8-point initiative to bring back peace in the Valley. Chidambaram said he was happy at the reopening of most educational institutions disregarding a boycott call and appealed to all sections of people, especially parents, to cooperate with the government in their smooth functioning.
He also condemned a "few minor" incidents of stone-pelting on school buses at Habak, Bemina and Nowgam and asked, "How can any right thinking person pelt stones on
"I hope that such mischief will stop immediately," he said in a statement in New Delhi, adding, "anyone who has the interest of the children at heart cannot indulge in stone-pelting; nor should anyone support such mischievous attempts to interfere with the functioning of schools and colleges."
Omar said the state government`s entire efforts were focussed to ensure that children do not lose valauable year of education. At the same time, he hoped separatists will cooperate and will not target children because they are coming to schools. "There was a mixed response on Monday," he said when asked for his assessment about students returning to schools.
Please cooperate with the Government", he said in Jammu, adding "Education is the right now a fundamental right of children. We want to restore that right to children". The education system in the valley had suffered collateral damage due to frequent curfews and strikes in the unrest, which began on June 11 with the killing of a 17-year-old student in police tear smoke shelling.
State Education Minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed claimed there was 80 per cent attendance in rural areas while urban centres recorded 30 to 40 per cent attendance.
In Srinagar city, Sayeed said 28 per cent students returned to schools in different government and private educational institutions. Terming the re-opening of schools as a good beginning in the right direction, he called for avoiding politicking on the issue. In order to ensure the smooth functioning of schools, the state Government had pressed a fleet of state road transport corporation buses into service.
More than 170 buses were deployed on 11 city routes for facilitating the movement of students and school staff. In view of the diktat issued by Geelani, many private
schools decided to adopt a wait and watch strategy. Geelani had yesterday also appealed to teachers and the non-teaching staff to stay at home.
Despite tight security deployment around the schools, there have been reports of some people threatening the management of some schools in Batamaloo area of the city. Sayeed expressed satisfaction over the opening of educational institutions across Kashmir Valley saying 80 per cent students attended classes in rural areas while urban centres recorded 30 to 40 per cent attendance.
In Srinagar city, he said 28 per cent students resumed their learning activities in different government and private educational institutions. The Minister appealed to the anti-education elements not to harass majority of pro-educationists.
Terming the opening of schools as a good beginning in the right direction, he called for avoiding politicking on the issue. "We cannot afford to derive any political gains on opening of schools and resuming academic activities as the issue concerns career of lakhs of students, whose future has to be safeguarded by one and all," Sayeed said.
The Minister said the education department will strictly follow the education calendar from September 30 till mid- December during which 11 lakh students will appear in various examinations.
Appreciating the bravery of students and teachers who attended on Monday, he said it has been taken note of by the education department. He said the morning assembly time and the recess can be utilised for compensating the academic loss.
The Minister asked private schools to operate their vehicles freely and assured them full support from the government in this regard. Giving a break-up of the percentage of different districts, Sayeed said Anantnag, Baramulla and Kulgam registered 75 per cent attendance, Kupwara 73 per cent, Shopian 53 per cent, Bandipora and Ganderbal 50 per
cent, Pulwama 20 per cent and Budgam 30 per cent.