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The Indian Army league of extraordinary goodwill

Twenty-six-year old Rehan Nazir from Kashmir, a software engineer working in Bengaluru flaunts his army linkage with pride. Destiny changed course for Rehan when he met Captain Praveen for the first time as a ten-year-old. Young Rehan had accompanied his father who worked as a porter in an army company operating base located next to his village in Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Rehan impressed the captain when he pointed out a calculation error in the wages of his father. That interaction eventually landed up Rehan in the Army Goodwill School, Wayne.

Like in most parts of India, children in remote parts of Kashmir have to walk long distances to study in ill-staffed and ill-equipped government schools. Captain Praveen overcame stiff resistance from Rehan’s father and put him in the school hostel and saved the young boy from a treacherous trek of four kilometers to the school.

The Indian Army runs 28 Army Goodwill Schools spread across remote regions of Kashmir. Close to 10,000 Kashmiri students study in these schools which boast of a brilliant academic record. Besides featuring in the top ranks, the school has had a consistent 100% pass record in Class X exams. The school provides quality education as also gives due focus on extra-curricular activities for the all-round development of a child. The faculty comprises both locals and those from outside Kashmir.

Army Goodwill Schools are equipped with state-of-the-art digital classrooms, well-stocked libraries, playgrounds, excellent sports infrastructure, educational software packages and many other facilities. Army provides scholarships to students from economically weaker sections, who form the bulk. Rehan is one amongst the many beneficiaries.

The annual confidence building tour is one of the highlights of the academic programme. Students are taken on a tour to various parts of the country. During these tours, the young boys and girls also meet eminent personalities, including the President and Vice-President of India, Union Ministers, the Army Chief and senior army officers. “The tour was an eye opener,” say Rehan. ‘Unfortunately militancy has arrested the pace of development in Kashmir,” he sighs.

Rehan was selected for the Army-run ‘Kashmir Super-40’ program, a free, special coaching programme for students to prepare them for entrance examinations for admission to engineering colleges. Buoyed by the success of engineering results, Indian Army launched a similar initiative for medical aspirants called the ‘Kashmir Super 30’ in 2018.

These full-time residential coaching programs under the Indian Army’s Sadbhavana project are supported and funded by various corporate entities. Most students from these programs qualify for prestigious engineering and medical colleges. The performance has progressively improved with all students having secured admission in NITs, out of which 12 qualified for IITs in 2019. Son of a manual labour Waheed Ahmed Sheikh, from Baramulla, cleared JEE with 99.08 percentile. Twelve students from the first batch of Super 30 qualified for MBBS, three for BDS, six for veterinary sciences and the balance for nursing courses.

Rehan cracked IIT-JEE with a good score and he was spoilt for choices. He turned to the person whom he trusted the most. Captain Praveen was adamant about Rehan moving out of Kashmir. Even after Captain Praveen got transferred from Kashmir, he continued his contact with Rehan. After a series of discussions Rehan agreed for NIT Trichy but with one condition. Captain Praveen should accompany him for admission and that too in uniform. “I used to refer to him as a captain but he surprised me with the major’s rank on his shoulder when he came for my admission,’ said Rehan, with a twinkle in his eyes.

When asked if he faced any problem in his workplace, being a Kashmiri. ‘Don’t forget, I am from the army fraternity,” he laughs and adds, ‘my friends drag me to the pubs since I am a teetotaller, collecting them after a few drinks and driving back is a herculean task.”

While bloodshed and violence are often highlighted the goodwill seldom figures in news headlines. “The Army Goodwill Schools started in 2008 and not one student from any of our schools fell into the trap of the terror tanzeems,” a senior army officer from the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps pointed out. Living under the shadow of guns, parents risks their lives to send their children to the goodwill schools in search of a better future. The students of these schools are achievers in their own right; each one of them has a story of struggle. They are role models for not just young Kashmiris, but for the entire country. If you come across a student from Army Goodwill Schools treat him or her with respect. These Kashmiri boys and girls belong to the league of extraordinary goodwill..