The deaths of 49 students in Navodaya Vidyalaya schools in the last five years, and of three students preparing for the IIT entrance examinations in Kota in a span of four days, brings the issue of youth suicides to the fore again.
Reasons for suicides –
- More youths are taking their lives due to the fear of failing in examinations, constant flak from teachers, bullying from peers, family pressure and a loss of a sense of a decent future.
- With their job future being so bleak, students are put under constant pressure to perform. They have failed to learn to enjoy the process of education. Instead, the constant pressure and stress has generated social antipathy and detachment among them.
Current scenario –
- There have been frequent news reports of suicides taking place in coaching centres that train students for medical and engineering entrance examinations.
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2014 and 2016, 26,476 students committed suicide in India. Of them, 7,462 committed suicide due to failure in various examinations.
- Our education system has not been successful in generating enough job options. For instance, the International Labour Organisation’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends Report of 2018 says that in 2019, the job status of nearly 77% of Indian workers would be vulnerable and that 18.9 million people would be unemployed.
- Sociologist Emile Durkheim had famously hypothesised that suicides are a result of not just psychological or emotional factors but social factors as well. With a loss of community and other social bonds, students in schools, colleges and coaching centres end up taking their lives.
Government response –
- According to Navodaya Vidyalaya Samitis, merely one or two training sessions are included to sensitise the teachers and principals regarding safety and security of the children and to prevent suicidal tendencies.
- The framework for implementation of the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) recognises the role of guidance and counselling services to students.
- In 2018, the government approved an integrated school education scheme subsuming the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the RMSA, and Teacher Education from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2020. However, without any significant rise in budgetary allocations for education, it is likely that there would be cuts in “non-productive” areas of education such as guidance and counselling.
What should be done?
- First, stop-gap solutions to setting up expert committees and counsellors in schools have not been able to solve the problem. The government must undertake a comprehensive study on the reasons behind these suicides.
- Second, the curriculum should be designed in ways that stress the importance of mental exercises and meditation. The Delhi government’s initiative on the ‘Happiness Curriculum’ may be a step in the right direction.
- Third, with regards to higher education, 12 measures were suggested by the Justice Roopanwal Commission. One of them stressed on making Equal Opportunity Cells with an anti-discrimination officer functional in universities and colleges.
- Finally, it is high time we seek to reinvent our educational ecosystem in ways that impregnate new meanings, new ideas of living, and renewed possibilities that could transform a life of precarity into a life worth living.
Source – The Hindu