Meet Munir Alam, engineer turned teacher striving to save future of Kashmir

As the coronavirus pandemic rages impacting everything in its wake, education has been one of the worst-hit. Understanding the need for continuous guidance, an engineer-turned-math teacher has decided to take up the challenge and teach students as schools continue to remain shut in Jammu and Kashmir. Munir Alam from Malbagh, Kashmir is taking open-air classes in a ground adjacent to a mosque in the area.

Munir has done engineering from NIT Srinagar and has been teaching maths to students for years. He started teaching in an open ground with 20 children following social distancing norms. The number of students taking the open-air classes has now gone up to 40.

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His class starts at 5.30 am as students sit at a distance from each other. Munir says, “we have fixed the time in the morning so that the children do not have trouble with the sun. One advantage is that in the morning traffic is slow and there is no rush.”

Munir Alam Open air Classes

In an interview with Munir said that for the last three months, sitting in the house was disturbing. The students were worried about their studies and their future. He says that there has been a period of stone-pelting and curfew in Jammu and Kashmir since 2008, but the Valley did not face such a difficult situation in the past.

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He said “last month the idea of taking open-air classes came to mind. However, before that, it was necessary to make the children aware of the coronavirus and explain to them about the associated protocols. I informed students of the protocols to escape from coronavirus, guide, and motivate them. When I felt that the children were trending, I started open classes last week” he said.

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He said “when you think about the future of your kids and society, you wouldn’t be able to sleep & will have to sacrifice your sleep. This gets me going & I reach here when it’s still dark”.

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Munir does not take any extra money from the children who paid the fees last year and said that he has spoken to parents about the payment of fees when the situation returns to normal.

Speaking about the situation of Jammu and Kashmir Munir said “we have seen the situation of J&K since childhood. Due to curfew and stone pelting, studies have been disturbed. When I was in 12th, one of my semesters was ruined because of Kargil, so I did not apply for a job after engineering and chose education as a career.”

Since August last year, there have been only 14-15 classes all over Srinagar. After the removal of article 370, when the curfew was imposed, the educational institutions were closed, followed by restrictions to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The students have not been able to study properly for the last 10 months. The students are under extreme stress with several competitive exams lined up.

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Munir urged that education should be made an essential service like, health and media and appealed to teachers across the country that they should also take some initiative in the interest of students.

Close to nine lakh students are enrolled in 10,915 government schools in Kashmir, and six lakh students are enrolled in 2,744 private schools in the Valley. Director School Education, Kashmir, Muhammad Younis Malik told g𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁.i𝗻 India that there are around 70,000 teachers in government schools in Kashmir.

Children are suffering from depression

With the suspension of schools, curb on outdoor activities children are getting upset sitting in the house, they are suffering from depression. “If we do not try to overcome this problem, it would prove to be bigger than coronavirus.”

Reported By Wahid Bhat, He is a Journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir.

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  • Wahid Bhat

    Wahid Bhat is an environmental journalist with a passion for covering climate change and environmental issues. He holds a degree in English Journalism (EJ) from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication and has received Media Fellow for NFI India (National Foundation for India) and Thomson Reuters Foundation. Wahid's reporting has been published in a range of respected outlets including Earth Journalism, Global Village Space, The Quint, Youth Ki Awaaz, and Devdiscourse

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