Away from school for 28 months, vaccine drive infuses hope among Kashmir Valley students

J&K administration pledges to administer one lakh doses a day

For the first time in 28 months, a ray of hope was generated among the students’ community in Kashmir on Monday as the first-ever coronavirus vaccination drive among the age group of 15-18 began and the J&K administration pledging to administer one lakh doses a day.

Class 11 student Lubna Rather braved the freezing temperature to queue up early in the morning at the Kothi Bagh Girls Higher Secondary School, one of the 50 government schools identified as vaccination centres in Srinagar.

“I am yearning to resume normal schooling. It has been over two years I have never been able to see the classroom and sit together with friends. I miss my school and hope to rejoin full time now, once the winter vacations are over,” Ms. Rather said.

Schools were closed in Kashmir for the first time from August 5, 2019, when the Centre ended J&K’s special constitutional position, and subsequently by the consecutive spells of COVID-19, affecting the normal schooling badly. There have been brief periods when schools were reopened for a few classes in the past 28 months in Kashmir.

Enthusiasm among students

Officials said they were surprised to see the enthusiasm among students. At least 8.33 lakh children will be vaccinated in J&K during the drive. Special vaccination drives were also conducted at Srinagar’s coaching centres.

“Students are participating with enthusiasm and interest. If students are fully vaccinated, then there will be no justification for keeping the schools shut. Online schooling is no substitute for the teaching-learning process,” G.N. Var, chairman of the Coaching Centers’ Association, said. He hoped that all schools would be reopened immediately after the winter vacation.

Vivek Bharadvaj, Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Medical Education Department, stated, “We would need 17 lakh vaccines in the first phase and have already received 2.80 lakh doses. We aim to administer one lakh doses a day. We should be able to cover the age group faster”.

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