In Depth

A young techie’s coding campaign creating classroom change in Kashmir

The classroom campaign. [FPK Photo/Umer Ahmad.]

‘Kashmir is far behind from the rest of the world in technological advancement and it’s very important we focus on this field right now to curb the rising unemployment rate.’

Aadil Bhat is neither a nerd nor a nuanced educator in the ‘old school’ Kashmir. The bespectacled man carries a clear vision of contemporizing classrooms and transforming the learning ecosystem of the valley to end the jinx of joblessness. 

From the last four years, the techie from Saffron town Pampore has been campaigning for the inclusion of Coding courses in Primary Classes. But his advocacy is facing the archaic-mindset that wants to keep things traditional.

“But it’s the need of the hour to bring Computer Sciences, especially Coding into the curriculum,” argues the techie in his late twenties. “There’s a huge demand for website developers these days, but there’re very few who can apply for such jobs especially in Kashmir.”

Aadil Ahmad during his Coding class. [FPK Photo/Umer Ahmad.]

Many startups relying on web-developers are already mushrooming across the valley. But while the demand for techies has increased, there’re not many skilled persons who could apply for Coding jobs in Kashmir.

“The need for the web-developers is very high in Kashmir,” Aadil reiterates. “In Rangreth Industrial Estate, there’re so many IT companies who’re in dire need of such developers and it takes them months to find a developer to hire.” 

Even students having degrees in Computer Sciences or Web Development aren’t fulfilling the market needs, he says, as they mostly focus on getting degrees rather than learning the ever-evolving IT skills. 

During awareness session. [FPK Photo/Umer Ahmad.]

Aadil’s IT initiative is coming at a time when Jammu and Kashmir is grappling with the escalating unemployment rate prompting many to assert that the region’s education needs a quick rethink and reformation. And since the thrust remains on the academic rat race, the skill-based education—seen as a sign of empowerment—is hardly being imparted in the valley. 

“Schools in Kashmir still follow the old syllabus,” Aadil asserts. “The education system in general and syllabus in particular needs to be overhauled and reframed according to the needs.” 

And to make students ready for the competition at the global level, technical courses need to be inculcated at primary level, Aadil avers. “On these lines and requirements, I started my IT initiative called Decode Future in 2018,” he says. 

“Back then, I had just finished my Masters in Computer Applications and received a huge response.”

Catching them young. [FPK Photo/Umer Ahmad.]

After a year-long slog, Aadil’s Coding campaign got lost in the communication blockade imposed on Kashmir in the run-up to the Article 370 abrogation. 

“A day before the abrogation [4th August 2019], we had conducted the first IT Conference in Kashmir,” the tech-educator says. “And the next day the internet was shut and our work got hampered. After months and months of internet ban, my friend got disillusioned and left the initiative for a government job.”

Alone and anxious, Aadil stood steadfast and restarted the concept of Coding, Web Development and Graphic Designing once the internet was restored in Kashmir. However, seeing most of the students struggle to get their head around the course became a major concern for him. He then decided to visit schools to ‘catch them young’. 

“I’ve successfully conducted scores of workshops in different schools and coaching centers,” he says. “It’s fascinating that more students are showing interest in Web Development. There’s a huge demand for the workforce in this field.”

The campus conference. [FPK Photo/Umer Ahmad.]

Many of Aadil’s students are already working with international Web Developing companies and are getting handsomely paid. Behind their placement in the big IT brands is Aadil’s Coding campaign.

“We’ve organized three IT Conferences in Kashmir so far, under which we invite IT experts and academicians from all around the country to interact with students,” he says. “This market-oriented approach ensures quick employment and empowerment of our young talent in their most productive age.” 

But despite Aadil’s IT drive, the fact that schools in Kashmir are still teaching some outdated courses makes him anxious about the valley’s tech-future. 

“It’s important to provide skill-based education and contemporary courses to students,” he says. “By teaching outdated web developing courses we’re only pushing students into uncertain future.” 

IT interaction. [FPK Photo/Umer Ahmad.]

What makes Aadil’s initiative relevant to times is the pervasive technological advent where most of the things are going automated. And it needs a very strong and affecting workforce who can maintain such applications. “There’s a huge demand for the workforce in the West preferring affordable employees from India and Kashmir,” he says.

“At the same time,” he continues, “there’s a diaspora of Kashmiri IT experts hiring workforce from the valley. But unfortunately it takes months of research to find a single candidate for such opportunities. Kashmir is far behind from the rest of the world in technological advancement and it’s very important we focus on this field right now. We can divert a huge workforce into this field and curb the unemployment rate in J&K.” 

Teaching mode. [FPK Photo/Umer Ahmad.]

After tiresome efforts Aadil had previously managed to convince a school in his hometown Pamore for teaching Coding. However, after years of endless search, the school is yet to find a teacher who could teach their students. 

“Even after having thousands of students with Masters in Computers Application, a very minimal number of them are able to bring it in practice or can teach others in Kashmir,” he says. 

“Our syllabus has been framed in 1980s and since then much of it has already become obsolete. And yet, we teach the same outmoded concepts to our future generation in Kashmir!”

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