In over three decades of violence and insurgency in Kashmir, the education sector has been the worst hit. Hundreds of schools were reduced to rubble, students were forced to sit back home due to continuous search operations, curfews and shutdowns.
In such times of chaos and hostility there was no scope for the investors to spend in education sector even almost all the leading schools of India who had their franchises across the country overlooked the needs of Kashmir on educational front.
Forget about the quality education the normal functioning of school was a big challenge for government. The only ray of hope for some people who could afford the quality education for their children during turmoil were few missionary schools set up decades or centuries back.
Meanwhile, in the outskirts of city’s downtown area a businessman Mohammad Yousef Wani aspired to build one institution which will give hope to the hapless people. And for pursuing his dream he selected Elahi Bagh – one worst hit by militancy. His aim was clear the young generation should not be deprived of benefits of education and remain illiterate.
“Thirty years back when you looked outside, the situation was worrying and distressing. There was complete chaos and lawlessness. The business sector was already shut due to growing violence. Even survival of person was a big challenge,” Wani recounts the times of early days of militancy when he was young and hundreds of youth of his age were crossing the Line of Control in Kashmir to seek arms training.
He, however, had a different plan and wanted to do something positive and decided to set up one small school in the area.
“I followed my heart without considering the situation outside which was very stressful,” he says.
I came across this place and purchased a small piece of land amid open ended paddy fields and lush green orchards. I build a small building and started a school for primary children.”
Wani said that in view of the scenic look of the place he discussed two names with his friends and relatives for the school, Green Valley Educational Institute or Summer Field. “However, majority supported the idea of GVEI and I went ahead with the same name.”
Down the line after 28 years, GVEI is the first and only Kashmir’s Indigenous private educational institute with over 3600 students on roll. Spread on a sprawling 75 kanals of land, this private educational institute is incomparable in every aspect. Be it academics, co-curricular activities youth leadership – the school has created a niche.
Like so many people who preferred to bring franchise of top schools in Kashmir, Wani believed in creating his own brand for the Valley and his hard work paid the dividends.
“When you take the franchise of any brand you simply feel of doing business. When you work hard to create your own brand from a scratch it gives you confidence, pride and most importantly love and respect among the people around you,” he says.
But this success has not come so easily to Wani. He recounts that for many days he would get stuck in school due to turmoil and sleep without food.
“I got trapped in school for many days due to tensions and violence outside. I would get food form neighbours and sleep without bed. But I didn’t give up and remained contended to sustain my endeavour.”
He admits that setting up of venture during those days was a herculean task but his commitment and sincerity never let him to look back. “I faced difficulties with normal approach and I never let any hindrance come in a way to break my commitment,” he says.
While the school has been taking lead in all aspects of life and its students are earning laurels Wani forgets his trials and tribulations of past in building up this institution singlehandedly.
“I become more positive and confident of my decision I took 28 years back to set up GVEI. When I see my students debating, discussing the issues of our society on national television channels or participating in debates and symposia nationally, I feel that I am creating a generation of leaders.”
“Today, pass out students of GEVI are donning their mettle in the top and elite colleges and universities of India. Be it St Stephen, Jamia Milia, Symbiosis our students are everywhere,” he feels proud.
This positive changes emanating from this educational institute gives Wani a hope for better tomorrow and he vows to continue his efforts to contribute significantly in the education sector of Kashmir.
GVEI was awarded by former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mufti Mohammad Sayed a green award for its contribution to environment. In the school campus the polythene is banned totally and the students are taught never to use it at home or anywhere.
Wani believes that creating awareness and inculcating moral and social education to the students at school is his responsibility and not a favour to anyone.
“We need to imbibe the true social and moral values among our children and that is our collective responsibility and not a favour. I do my bit religiously.”
The institute has over five hundred staffers including five principals, separate departments for Information technology, Human Resources, Co-curricular activities and scientific labs.
The institute is first in valley to have invoked the Information technology in every sphere with smart classrooms, unique application to maintain the continuous interaction between teachers, students and their parents.
“We have full-fledged digital classrooms for kindergarten. We apply all the digital methods to teach them and immediately inform their parents about the home work of their kids, their status etc.”
The idea of employing the information technology according to Wani is the need of time and he started this process way back in 2005 when he travelled to Tokyo and got inspired with same technology in schools there.
In 2007, the GVEI got the best award for computer excellence for equipping the institute with digital gadgets for daily use. In Srinagar even it is the first educational institute which installed CCTV cameras at the campus.
The chairman of the school who also loves the technology believes that in digital times no one can afford to ignore the invasion of technology and said that we need to make it part of our lives to live in competition.
“The results are declared also through this special application, attendance, performance and fee reports are also maintained digitally via this special in house-app.”
The moment students enters the school, their parents get informed through this app. Once they leave parents are again updated through this app. It is to ensure complete transparency and accountability among the students,” he adds.
In coming months, this institute is planning to set up a robotic laboratory to inculcate the scientific exposure among the students.
Wani, however, says that he will also allow outside students to use the facility in the area after schools are shut in evening.
“We create athletes, intellectuals, professionals at our institute. After this lab is established our endeavour is to produce students with scientific acumen,” he grins.