BARAMULLA, Jammu and Kashmir — The last time that Parvez Ahmad Famda, a 39-year-old primary school teacher in Kashmir, saw the inside of a classroom was on 12 March. The 15 fifth graders he teaches were all in attendance.
Four months on, Famda is once again dreaming of teaching in a classroom — the Covid-19 lockdown forced schools to shut again within two weeks of reopening for the first time since Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was rescinded in August last year.
“First, there was the long communication blockade and now this pandemic lockdown. It haunts me when teachers are not able to deliver on our duties because of our circumstances,” he said.
The end of the lockdown imposed by the Narendra Modi government after it abrogated J&K’s special status on 5 August, 2019, was followed by a second one that it imposed on 25 March, 2020, this time across India, to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus.
There was a close to six-month long ban on the internet from 5 August before it was restored on 25 January, following an international outcry over the longest internet ban imposed by a democratic country. The ban was replaced by a slow 2G network that has upended online teaching.
The government school where Famda teaches in district Baramulla closed from 5 August, 2019 till 24 February, this year. The school remained open for 17 days before it was closed from 12 March due to a pandemic, almost two weeks before the nationwide lockdown.
Frustrated by this, Famda, a father to two children, has for almost a month been teaching at an open-air school that he along with seven more teachers from three different government schools set up in Katainwali, a village nestled in the hills of Baramulla.
Sitting in the shade of trees, surrounded by over a dozen students and a stunning vista of the hills, Famda says he wants to make sure that children do not completely forget the joys and rigours of school.
“At the very least, they need to stay in touch with their...