An educator is acting as the guiding light for the community that long walked away from government schools.
A pre-1947 school had become a ghost house—susceptible to unforeseen mishaps—in the north of Kashmir. Tremors and troubles of the land had derailed its pace and progress over the years. But when the campus watch stopped due to the changing community preferences, a son of the soil stepped forward to restore its glory. One man’s act has now become a roadmap for the society decrying the fall of government schools.
In his three-decade long experience as an academician, Javaid Jawad has become a distinguished educator of Kashmir. The teacher was honoured as Bandipore’s finest educator in 2011 and received accolades as the best JK level teacher in 2021. His educational expertise eventually came handy for flipping the fate of a forgotten government school, and so many young students studying in it.
Under Javaid’s guidance, the campus restored its relevance in the community where means and methods of schooling have changed.
The suave educator spearheaded pioneering initiatives that compelled parents to opt for enrollment. He facilitated their children’s development amidst rudimentary mud and thatched walls, leading to withdrawal of admissions from renowned institutions.
The school rests in Baba-e-JK Scouting, Ahmadullah Affandi’s village, Onagam. Its rented building has served as a beacon of light for boys and girls.
But as Kashmir passed through a troubled timeline in its recent years, this destitute feeder educational institution was discarded. It even lacked restroom forcing students and teachers to share a common washroom.
In addition to the acute paucity of potable water, the first storey of the institution served as a culinary workspace.
From its glorious period to the days of its doom, the school had almost lost its aura, like most of the government schools in the valley. The gloomy state of these schools that previously produced the “cream of the society” is often attributed to the mass migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley. In the pre-90 Kashmir, the KP teachers were considered as the lock, stock and barrel of public education in the region.
But while many commentators were literary waiting for godot all these years to bell the cat, Javaid’s posting as headmaster paved the path for the long-awaited change. “I seized the opportunity to restore the lost glory in 2018,” Javaid says. “I’m now wholeheartedly working for it.”
From merely 112 in 2018, the student enrolment number reached 127 in 2019, 137 in 2020, 151 in 2021, 221 in 2022, and 234 in 2023. Javaid improved the roll when Kashmiri civil society is still locking horns over the unending debate of how-to-revive-government-schools.
But this particular revival in Bandipora is now changing the community order.
“We’re sure that our children will leave their mark as the students of this institution,” says Maimoona, a mother of trio—Zaid, Zain, and Naureen—presently enrolled in the school. “A ray of hope emerged on the day when Javaid Sahab revamped this institution. Until then, we weren’t hopeful about its prospects.”
Under Javaid’s leadership, the institution is nurturing students’ comprehensive development—offering a diverse array of co-curricular activities in tandem with its academic activities. The educator elucidated that the school curriculum encompasses a wide spectrum of subjects, spanning the realms of both conventional and contemporary disciplines.
The institution has even introduced specialized programs and initiatives designed to address gender disparities, enhance communication acumen, inculcate moral values, foster personality development, promote female education, encourage social responsibility, and promote physical fitness.
Moreover, there has been a substantial enhancement in the availability of educational resources and facilities. The integration of cutting-edge digital learning tools and the establishment of publications such as Shaadab, Bachoo Ki Duniya, and the Kashmiri periodical Soan Meeras not only enrich the educational experience but also cultivate an environment conducive to innovation and academic growth.
Javaid asserts that the prevailing trust deficit for government schools in Kashmir represents the primary impediment to educational advancement within these institutions. However, his remarkable success lies in garnering the faith and support of a diverse array of individuals, encompassing medical professionals, seasoned elders, industrious labourers, and devoted volunteers.
Following his intervention, Reshi Mohammad Azad, President of the Private Diagnostic Centre Association (PDCA) Bandipora, presented the institution with a state-of-the-art microscope.
Many people like carpenter Ghulam Hassan are willingly stepping forward to revamp the campus. “As an alumnus of this school,” Hassan says, “I renovated its staircase free of cost. Crafting it felt like a journey through time.”
Last year, taking a strong note of the shabby outfit worn by underprivileged children, the tutors of the institution generously donated 25 warm garments and more than 30 pairs of footwear from their pocket money. Furthermore, to stimulate the intellectual acumen of professionals, the institution currently engages the services of 2 to 4 volunteers.
Javaid’s triumph is exemplified in the narrative of Saqib Nazir, an orphaned and physically impaired boy. Shortly after Javaid took over as the campus caretaker, Saqib undertook the task of erecting temporary school tents. This became necessary as the extant infrastructure could not accommodate the growing student population, resulting in overcrowding.
For his gesture, Javaid facilitated Saqib’s participation in an All India Tour alongside the children of Bait-Ul-Hilal, a local orphanage to which Javaid dedicates his volunteer efforts. “It was a profoundly enlightening journey for me,” Saqib recalls. “Javaid Sir steadfastly guided me through every step of the way.”
Javaid’s educational institution places a pronounced emphasis on cultural festivities as pivotal mechanisms to foster comprehensive growth within its student body. These multifaceted undertakings substantially contribute to the bolstering of self-assurance.
This institution today stands as a pioneering exemplar within the district, as it inaugurates the practice of weekly medical screenings for its students for fortifying their well-being.
Many parents are also hailing the weekly student visits to different institutions, and eminent personalities that Javaid has initiated under the Know Your Elders, Know Your Institutions, Know Your Neighbourhood, Meet the Eminent, and Schooling with Skill Programme for the overall development of the students.
“My daughter was greatly enriched by her interaction with Ghulam Ahmad Bhat, a venerable octogenarian born in the year 1929,” says Ateeqa Bano, whose daughter studies in the 8th grade in the school. “Her visit to the Polytechnic College and Central University of Kashmir has boosted her spirit.”
Javaid’s educational institution proudly bears the distinction of being a “Nutritionally Conscientious Institution,” wherein the indulgence in junk food is categorically proscribed. Grocers within the school’s environs are likewise entreated to eschew the stocking of candies and chips.
The teachers on their part are earnestly engaged in deliberating over their generous offerings to underprivileged children. “We should bestow upon these disadvantaged children the gift of possibilities and help them grow,” articulates Ruksana Akhter, an erudite teacher who generously contributes to the cause.
But despite all these initiatives, the educational institute lacks essential infrastructure facilities. The tattered doors, dishevelled classrooms, and beleaguered windows tell a tale of great neglect. However, Javaid is optimistic about receiving a favourable response from the administrative authorities to initiate a comprehensive construction project that will greatly benefit deserving students.
But somewhere in this structural apathy, Javaid has emerged as the guiding light for the community who long walked away from government schools.