Mahira Irfan, who appealed to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to reduce the huge burden extraneous study material
In Jammu and Kashmir, where politicians and other constituents of intelligentsia, continue sulking of their ‘marginalisation’ by the government, a six-year-old girl student’s innocent appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought about a veritable revolution. On Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s quick cognizance and strict instructions, Kashmir’s School Education Department has drastically reduced the duration of the on-line classes for the students from Class 1 to 12.
Last week, a Standard-1 student of Minto Circle School Srinagar, Mahira Irfan, had innocently asked Prime Minister Modi through her 71-second video as to why the authorities had put the young students of her age under the huge burden of extraneous study material during the coronavirus pandemic. Like other States and Union Territories across India, many schools in Jammu and Kashmir have been operating online classrooms through the Internet since April 2020.
Uploading the video on the social media from her maternal grandparents’ home in Maharajpura, Batmaloo, in Srinagar, the girl from Chadoora Budgam got instantaneously huge appreciation as she was amazingly polite, mature, crisp and articulate.
However, no one expected someone like the Prime Minister or LG to listen to her and order the desired action. Within a day, it went viral in the social and regular media, attracting TV crews to the girl’s city residence. Her father Irfan and mother Rukhsar sounded a little perturbed over the child coming under the media limelight but they didn’t stop the baby from speaking on camera. Mahira revealed that she had made the video on her mother’s smartphone and learned about ‘Modi Sahab’ from her father.
In the Union Territory, where anybody mentioning Modi with some decency is instantly trolled and silenced by a robust ecosystem of the separatists, the militants and their sympathisers, Mahira spoke her heart. She looked oblivious of the politics and the consequences of putting such videos in the social media.
“Assalamu alaikum Modi Sahab. I am a 6-year-old girl. I want to tell you about our Zoom classes. Why do our teachers, our Madams and Sirs, put young 6-year students under a huge workload? Why so much work? This kind of load should have been for older students. When I get up in the morning, my (online) classes run in one go from 10.00 am to 2:00 pm—English followed by maths, Urdu, EVS and computer. Such a heavy workload should be for the students of the 6th, 7th and 10th class. Why so much workload for the younger students? Assalamu alaikum Modi Sahab. Good bye!”, Mahira says in her resplendent innocence.
“Very adorable complaint. Have directed the school education department to come out with a policy within 48 hours to lighten burden of homework on school kids. Childhood innocence is gift of God and their days should be lively, full of joy and bliss”, LG Sinha’s office tweeted on 31 May. In just 24 hours, another tweet from the Raj Bhavan: “The school education department has decided to limit daily online classes for a maximum one and half hours for class 1 to 8, spread across two sessions. For class 9 to 12 online synchronous learning will not be more than 3 hours”.
On Tuesday, 1 June, LG Sinha himself announced the UT government’s decision to minimise the duration of the online classes for the primary, the middle and the higher secondary school students.
On behalf of Sinha, it was tweeted: “Pre-primary on a given day for interacting with parents shall be only 30 minutes. Concerned authorities to ensure the strict implementation. Homework up to class 5th should be avoided. Authorities and schools to plan joyful learning experiences engaging parents as well. Our children need more time to play, interact with parents, the biggest learning experience a child can have.”
Director School Education Kashmir Tassaduq Hussain Mir immediately issued the orders as approved by Principal Secretary Education BK Singh. The order also barred more than three hours of the duration of on-line classes for the students of class 9 to 12.
Even as the leaders of an association of the private schools complained publicly that the ‘stakeholders’ had not been taken on board, indicating opposition to the government decision, the UT government refused to budge an inch.
“They should have themselves recommended such changes. No one knows it better than them that there has been an unwarranted workload on the young students which has, among other health and personality development problems, badly affected many students’ eyesight. There should be a limit to the young students being with the on-line classes on their small smartphones”, said a senior bureaucrat. He revealed that the government was also examining the recommendations and orders of a former chairperson of the child and women rights commission, Vasundhara Pathak Masoodi, regarding reduction of the curriculum and the weight of the students’ school bags.