Baramulla, Feb 3: As the historic Saint Joseph’s School in Baramulla, Kashmir, is facing an uncertain future after the Department of Education refused to renew the school’s lease on the land it is built on, the school alumni, students, parents and the Private Schools Association are pleading the government to save the school from closure.
The school, which was established in 1905, and has played a significant role in promoting education in north Kashmir, is currently operating from a piece of leased which has been leased to it by the government, like many other similar schools across Jammu & Kashmir.
Saint Joseph’s School in Baramulla one of the four remaining missionary schools in Kashmir, besides Presentation Convent School, Srinagar, Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson Schools and Burn Hall School.
“The lease for Saint Joseph’s expired in 2018, and the school management has been trying to renew it ever since without success”, a school official said.In April 2022, the Department of Education issued an order stating that it would not renew the leases of private schools in J&K operating on state land. This order was followed by another order in December 2023, which stated that students of such schools would be tagged to neighboring government schools for board examinations.
Now, concerned at the prospect of the closure of the St. Joseph’s School, which has been nurtured by eminent education missionaries both in the pre partition and post partition times, the school alumni, present students, the school management and parents’ association have appealed to the government to save the rich legacy of this school and reconsider its decision.
“It is emotionally very disturbing to me that this great school is now facing the possibility of having to close down”, said Nadia, an alumni, who has grown to become an IT engineer working for a leading company in Bangalore.
Parents are also worried that the move would leave hundreds of students without a school to attend.
“Schools like these have spread positive and empowering education. And it doesn’t matter which land they have been built on. Yes, there could be ways to ensure that private schools are more accountable and that their profits don’t disproportionately grow in comparison to the services they provide but schools like these should survive”, said Amrit Kaur, requesting not to quote her real name.
The school has this week issued a notice to parents stating that the management is “doing everything possible” to keep the school open, but it also acknowledged that the school’s future was uncertain.
Meanwhile, the Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK) has expressed its ‘deep concern and disappointment’ regarding the recent closure of Registration Return Forms (RRFs) by the Board of School Education (BOSE) for the school.
The recent news of registration denial to students of the prestigious Saint Joseph School Baramulla, an institution with a 100-year legacy, has sent shockwaves through the entire education community in Kashmir. If such an established institution can be targeted, then it seems no other school is immune, the association said.
“We urge the authorities to understand the gravity of this situation,” said a spokesperson of PSAJK. “This decision is not just bureaucratic, it is deeply emotional. It disrupts the lives of countless families and shatters the dreams of our children.”
“We are heartbroken to see the future of our children being jeopardized by the continuation of these insensitive decisions,” said the spokesperson. “The closure of RRFs leaves thousands of students in limbo, unable to register for upcoming exams from their respective schools and thus jeopardizing their academic progression.”
“The impact of this decision extends far beyond individual students. With every similar step we may face ultimate closure of hundreds of private schools. It throws the livelihood of thousands of teachers and school staff into uncertainty and threatens the very existence of numerous private schools in the valley”, PSAJK said.
“While we appreciate the efforts of the J&K High Court in directing the authorities to comply with its directions regarding provisional recognition and RRFs, the continued non-implementation of court orders raises serious concerns about the administration’s commitment to the rule of law and the welfare of its citizens”, PSAJK said.
The PSAJK has urged the Lieutenant Governor’s office to intervene for the sake of students’ educational and emotional wellbeing and instruct BOSEK to reverse this decision.
An official of J&K Bose of School Education said that the measure facing Saint Joseph School was not an isolated one, and that the registration of schools built on state land is under re-consideration.