After remaining shut for 100 days, schools in Kashmir Valley reopened on Monday, with students and teachers given a free passage by security forces despite curfew and restrictions in many parts.
However, attendance was thin against the backdrop of hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's call to parents not to send their wards to schools and colleges. The education system in the valley had become a collateral damage in the ongoing unrest, which began on June 11 with the killing of a 17-year-old student in police tear smoke shelling.
In order to ensure the smooth functioning of schools, the state government had pressed a fleet of state road transport corporation buses into service.
More than 170 buses were deployed on 11 city routes for facilitating the movement of students and school staff. The attendance of the students, however, was just around 20 per cent but authorities were hopeful that that it would improve from Tuesday. State Education Minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed on Sunday announced a comprehensive plan for restarting the learning process and holding of annual examinations in the Valley.
"We have formulated a plan to reopen all the schools in rural as well as urban areas including Srinagar city from Monday," the minister had said. He said the department will ensure that students of the Valley do not lose a precious academic year due to the ongoing unrest.
Geelani had on Sunday said, "No right thinking person can deny the importance of education in society, but to think that they (government) are concerned about the future of our children is like a mad man's dream".
He appealed to people to strictly observe the civil curfew when schools and colleges would resume their normal functioning in the Valley. The separatist leader also appealed to teachers and the non-teaching staff to stay at home. In view of the diktat issued by Geelani, many private schools decided to adopt a wait and watch strategy.
"We will see how the first day pans out. If government schools function normally, we will also start from Tuesday but at the moment we cannot risk our students," said Mukhtar Ahmad, who runs a private school.
Despite tight security deployment around the schools, there have been reports of some people threatening the management of some schools in Batamaloo area of the city.
However, police officials say they were not aware of such threats.