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Friday, June 3, 2011

35 -22nd Feb 2008 - STATE OF DISTRESS- Times of India e Paper

Publication: The Times Of India Mumbai;
Date: Feb 22, 2008;
Section: Times City;     Page: 5       

Academic Strain Shows: 11.5% Of All Student Suicides In Maharashtra Are From Mumbai
Anahita Mukherji | TNN

Mumbai: Given that the pressure to perform starts before kindergarten and dogs students all though their academic life, it may come as no surprise that 11.45% of all student suicides in Maharashtra during 2006 were from Mumbai, according to the recently released National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics. In fact, the figures for Mumbai match those for Pune, Nashik and Nagpur put together. 

    While pressure to excel has reached monstrous proportions in cities like Mumbai, academic pressure is far less in smaller cities and rural areas, said experts. “I have yet to come across a student in a village who is ashamed to come home and say he’s failed an exam. In rural areas, children who fail are often allowed to take a break and work for a year, and then get back to studies,’’ says Nilesh Nimkar, director, Quality Education Support Trust, in Thane’s Wada block. Nimkar, who has worked extensively with marginalised tribal children in Thane, is also a curriculum consultant for some of Mumbai’s better-known schools. “When we observed some of the city kids in Mumbai under immense strain and advised parents to send them for counselling, parents were upset at the thought because they felt counselling was only for retarded kids,’’ he adds.

    While exams may not be the sole reason for student suicides, they are definitely a major cause. For instance, Srikant Mallapallu, a 21-year-old who hung himself in his hostel room in IIT Powai in December 2006, left behind a suicide note where he said he could not make it because of the backlog of exams that he had to clear.

    Another suicide victim that year was DEd student Rashmi Kawande, a quiet and withdrawn girl. Teachers, though unsure of the cause of suicide, pin it down to homesickness and hostel life.

    According to teachers, the strain on girls who are academically bright but are being pressured to get married also results in suicide. For instance, teachers at a Mumbai polytechnic were stunned when a bright young girl ended her life a day before her exams. “Kya pata exam likhoongi ya nahin,’’ she told a teacher, a day before her paper when she was asked to copy down the time-table. “I got a call next morning informing me that she had killed herself,’’ said her teacher. It was later discovered that she was under pressure to get married.

    Maharashtra also has the dubious distinction of being the state with the second highest incidence of student suicides across the country, beaten only by West Bengal.

    With crumbling support systems and the lack of a full-fledged counselling centre in most schools—including some reputed institutions—there are very few mechanisms at hand to spot a child who may be in distress. “Most schools do a shoddy job of counselling. I have visited some wellknown CBSE schools who don’t feel the need to have a counselling setup,’’ says Chandni Parekh, a psychologist.