Education Minister Naeem Akhtar Tuesday said the political turbulence in Kashmir should not be an excuse for underperformance of the government-run educational institutions.
“Education should not become a casualty of conflict. The political turbulence of the past more than two decades should not become an excuse for underperformance at our schools and colleges,” Mr Akhtar said while speaking at the inaugural session of an inter-college debate competition at SP College, Srinagar. The topic for the debate competition was “College Education in Kashmir is Listless”.
Stressing on giving creative freedom to students, Mr Akhtar said the colleges should allow limitless transition of students from boyhood into adulthood. “I see before me the challenge of bringing the education department alive and infuse a fresh breath into the system. I see a day when teachers and students may have to wake up at two in the night for lectures,” he said.
Praising the college management for restoring the flood-hit campus within a short span of time, he said the people of Kashmir have often showed resilience in hard times.
“You have the confidence of having produced representative minds. Now is a difficult time. And Kashmir has shown itself best in adversity,” he said.
“We have to ask ourselves: have we given up and surrendered to situation? Kashmir ruled this part of the world in not so distant past. Then we had no colleges and universities. Now, with so much infrastructure, why aren’t we repeating our past glories? That is my concern,” the Minister added.
Recalling the measures taken by the education department after he took over its charge, Mr Akhtar said the department has come into public focus which is a big achievement.
“I have brought the discourse on education into focus again. We had lost ownership of our schools, colleges and our entire education department. But let me tell you, unless we fix the system of primary and secondary education, colleges will continue to remain listless,” he said.
The Minister said the patch of land from Kothi Bagh to SP College, despite being the best of real estate in entire Kashmir, has failed to produce any cultural attraction in the historic city of Srinagar.
“It will be one of the greatest social interventions in our time if these facilities remain open till late. This land (from Kothi Bagh to SP College) is the deadest place in Srinagar, despite having high real estate value. Our children go out for fake certificates in courses which can be taught here and by the best of minds,” he said
“What stops you? Why don’t we capture secular spaces in trade, technology, art and civil services. This is a mental barrier which I am yet to cross,” he added.
Twenty four students from across the Kashmir participated in the debating competition. The debate was organized by Rising Kashmir Foundation (RKF) and Gulshan Books, Srinagar.
Earlier, the RKF’s chief, Shujaat Bukhari, said such debates are part of their social responsibility, “I am grateful to the honorable minister for bringing accountability into the Education Department. I also assure him that we will continue such endeavors in future,” he said.
Recalling the history of the college, Principal, Prof Yasin Ahmad Shah, said the colleges should not be treated as skilled-human resource producing machines.
“This college is known for producing thinkers and leaders like Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and GM Sadiq, but also their contemporaries including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Dr Farooq Abdullah and the present chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed,” Prof Shah said.
Prize distribution ceremony was held towards the end of the function. Mr Badr Bashir of Amar Singh College bagged the first position, Ms Maleeha Mushtaq of SP College & Sana Shah of Women’s College MA Road bagged the second position and Shazia Irshad of Government Degree College Boys Sopore bagged the third position.
The Minister also released the monthly newsletter and annual college magazine “The Pratap” on the occasion.