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Communal (Informal) Education- A Glimmer of Hope

It is not hidden how important it is to acquire education for young, impressionable minds. Education is a tool that helps these individuals improve their quality of life, challenge themselves, have opportunities for social cohesion, and allow socialising opportunities. Similarly, the scope for education does not lessen in the face of conflict- in fact, I would say it increases.

And so, when the state fails to carry out their responsibilities when it comes to providing education to young children in conflict or post-conflict areas, who steps in?

It typically falls onto the state to provide protect schools from violence, education for kids, provides psycho-social assistance, and have teachers trained. This blog intends to look at how the community steps in, in the face of conflict when the state fails by using the example of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Considering the vital role that education plays in children’s lives, it is important that educational prospects are not paused in times of conflict.

Several communal learning centers are set up in mosques and communal areas where children are provided education by one individual who steps up for the greater good.

This is an image of Mohammad Hussain who teaches Kashmiri girls in an ad-hoc learning centers.

Followed by a picture of a time table these children were following.

The way that the time table is made and the image of young girls studying does help give context to the kind of resources present for these students, which is a more important debate at hand. When such schools are seen to open in a decentralized manner, the quality of education provided does take a hit. However, in times of conflict even receiving education through whatever means seems like a big enough deal.

The functions of these communal centers are not only to provide education to the kids but also to help them navigate through these difficult times. It plays a role in the latter by being a source of hope for these kids through support groups consisting of children who are going through a similar experience, along with teachers who are facing the same conflict allowing them to create a tightly knit community on its own. One of the government teachers who volunteers at one such learning center says that these "have kept kids somewhat busy in their studies at a time when everyone is traumatized."

Community centers foster a sense of belonging, help children process the on-going/ post conflict, and provides them with consistent education.

Conclusively, this initiative is not to undermine the role of the state and how it must intervene in the process of provision of quality education, psycho-social help, teacher training to help kids deal with the said trauma. But, it is to highlight how in trying times such informal education provision is seen to be on the rise so children have continued access to education.

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