Army's Goodwill Schools A Hit In J-K
29 January 2006
The Indian Express
Srinagar: The Army's Goodwill schools, set up in the Valley to teach Kashmiri children 'basic tolerance and Sufi traditions, revive the standard of education hit by militancy' and 'emphasise on progressive education' are growing in popularity, despite militant threats. The militants aiming at disrupting the growth of these schools, had set afire a few school buildings and buses.There are 33 Goodwill schools running across Kashmir with 7,000 students and more are coming up. The Army says the response of the locals has been overwhelming and the number of students wishing to gain admission run into thousands with at least seven contenders for each available admission vacancy. The Army is expanding the network of their schools and upgrading the existing schools. Work has already started on a Rs 10-crore project to set up a 'boarding school of international standards' on land provided by the J-K government in Pahalgam. The Goodwill schools are managed by the local units operating in the area, but the Army has formed an apex body based at the 15 Corps Headquarters with the Corps Commander as patron. Brigadier B P S Hundal, Deputy Director, Ordinance Service, is chairman of the Managing Committee while Corps Colonel, Education, is a member of the committee. Brig Hundal said, 'The basic aim is to revive the educational system of Kashmir affected by militancy. For reviving any community or society, education forms the bedrock. So, we are giving thrust to rebuilding the society through good education,' adding that the emphasis of these schools is providing 'progressive education' and boosting standards to put Kashmiri students on par with other students in the country. 'Besides teaching moral values and ethics, we have introduced e-education,' he says adding that the syllabus in these schools has been adopted from the Central Board of School Education (CBSE). 'This will help our students to compete at the national level,' says Brig Hundal. 'Talented students will be sponsored by the Army for higher education too. We have sent 157 students to different educational institutions across the country and the expenses are being borne by the Army.' The first Goodwill school was set up by the Army in Uri in 1999 and within six years 32 more came up across the Valley creating an effective education system, especially in militancy infested rural Kashmir and farflung border areas. 'Our fee is nominal and affordable,' Brig Hundal says. 'To cater to the requirements of these schools, funds are arranged either through Operation Sadhbavna or from the Army Children Education Welfare fund.' These schools attracted the anger of the militants, who saw them as an 'Army plan to destroy the core of separatist sentiments'. In fact, two militant organisations in south Kashmir had issued threats to students and teachers of the Goodwill schools and even set a school building and three school buses on fire in Kundroo, Anantnag. However, the separatist politicians have not publicly opposed the Goodwill schools.