Schools in Jammu and Kashmir reopened on Monday but there was only thin attendance, as hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had given a strike call and asked students to keep away.

Mr. Geelani had termed the government initiative a “drama.”

The educational institutions had remained closed in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley for over 100 days.

The authorities had imposed curfew here and arranged buses for ferrying teachers and students at various places. However, except in a few schools, there was almost no attendance, and parents preferred not to risk the security of their wards. Almost all the government schools were open but hardly any student turned up.

In the civil lines of Srinagar, some prominent schools opened but the attendance was poor. Missionary schools Tyndale Biscoe School, Burn Hall and Presentation Convent reopened with tight security outside their premises. “But the attendance was thin,” school officials said. In Biscoe and Mallinson School, only 150 out of 6,000 turned up. Similarly, 80 students came to the Presentation Convent, where 3,000 are enrolled. At Burn Hall School, 200 of over 2,000 students turned up. Similarly, at Women's College M.A. Road, the attendance was negligible, with not more than 100 girls turning up as against the 4,500 students enrolled. The Kothibagh Girls School saw only 12 students of 3,000 attending, while the Amira Kadal Girls School saw 20 students turning up against 2,500.

The Islamia College of Science and Commerce was also deserted with only 12 students coming to receive examination forms. Here, 5,500 are on the rolls. A visit to some parts of Srinagar revealed that staff had reported for duty at government schools but there were no students. Most of the private schools were locked.

Bus drivers injured

The Delhi Public School was closed after some drivers of their buses were injured in stone-throwing. One private school, which was repeatedly featured on TV channels, had to face threats from angry youth. The Private School Co-ordination Committee refused to give details, but sources said most of the private schools under this body were closed.

Parents were worried about the safety of their children. “How can I send my child to school when there is curfew and stone-throwing,” asked Zahoor Ahmad.

In South Kashmir too, most of the schools in towns saw close to nil attendance though the teachers had come. In many rural areas, the schools had been functioning during the turmoil as well. In Budgam also the situation was the same and some schools were forcibly closed by youth.

In North Kashmir, the situation was no different with main private institutions closed in Baramulla town. Likewise in Kupwara private institutions were closed.

In Tangmarg, however, Mohammadia Public School, Hanfia Model School and many others resumed work. The market was also open. In Bandipore, stones were hurled at the Girls Higher Secondary in Naberpora after some teachers attempted to resume work.

Government teachers said they had to “obey the orders” irrespective of whether students came or not.

Expressing satisfaction over the reopening of educational institutions across the Kashmir Valley, Minister for Education Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed said that in all 80 per cent students attended schools in rural areas whereas urban centres recorded a 30 to 40 per cent attendance. In Srinagar, he said 28 per cent students turned up in government and private institutions.

Appeal

The Minister appealed to those opposing the move to open educational institutions not to harass those who wanted to pursue their studies.

Terming the opening of schools as a good beginning, the Minister said that politicisation of the issue should be avoided. “We cannot afford to derive any political gain from the opening of schools, as the issue concerns the future of lakhs of students,” he said.