PULWAMA — Amid the COVID-19 lockdown and closure of educational institutions in the Valley, a community school has come up in a remote village in southern Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

What makes this school interesting is the fact that the classes are held under open sky, with the shade of lush green trees protecting the children from the heat of direct sunlight.

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Set up among the woods in forest area of Yarwan village, the school is functioning for half-days while taking care of all precautionary measures and advisories related to prevention of COVID-19 infection.

“We sought the required permission from the concerned authorities before starting this school. After receiving the nod to go ahead, we asked the students to come with face masks and hand sanitizers in order to attend classes,” Khursheed Ahmad, a teacher says.

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He adds, “We also take care of social distancing. As the area is vast, the students sit at a good distance from each other while attending classes.”

Another teacher, without revealing his name, said, “These children come from poor families so they cannot afford smartphones. Besides, the area is not well connected as far as internet services are concerned which makes the initiative of online classes just an imaginary concept here.”

The students, who look visibly happy, are all praise for the initiative which many of them call as ‘jungle school’.

Ajaz Ahmad, a student, said, “As you know that schools could not function in Kashmir from August last year. When the schools finally opened this year, Corona played a spoilsport. We were very sad as our education was suffering. So, we requested the teachers for the classes and they reciprocated, for which we are really thankful.”

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“We are from poor families and could not study online. Besides, those students who had smartphones also failed to take advantage of online study due to low speed internet which is often barred in Pulwama,” Munazah, a girl student said, adding, “We are really thankful for the teachers who are teaching us against all odds, be it coronavirus or humid weather.”

With the government lacking any convincing plan to open educational institutions while the parents of students resisting any plans to let the government ‘experiment with their kids’, it will take quite some time to see schools opening again. Till then, this community school should be an exemplar for teacher community in the Valley.

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