Though 46-year-old A Shanmugam is a construction worker, his family lived a content life, with all his children receiving a quality education. This was till June 4, 2018 — the family will never forget the day as it lost its ‘paapa’ (baby) who ended her life after failing to score required marks in the NEET exam, though her Plus-Two score was more than enough to get admission into a medical college.
It has been almost a year since Prathiba’s mother S Amudha, her sister S Umapriya and brother S Praveen Raj sported a smile on their faces. Umapriya, an MCA graduate from this village in Villupuram district, who hasn’t taken up a job so that she can be by her mother’s side post-tragedy, seethes with anger the moment she hears NEET.
“A student is taught Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics from class VI to class XII. She takes every effort to learn the subject for six years and does well in plus-two public exams. After this, if only NEET marks matter to get into a medical college, why put them through the pain of public exams?” Umapriya asked.
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Prathiba, who got 1,125 in her plus-two exams, appeared for NEET in 2017 and scored 155 marks and got admission in a private medical college. Since she couldn’t afford a private college, Prathiba reappeared for NEET in 2018 but could score only 39 marks.
Dejected at not being able to crack the exam, the young girl ended her life on the very same day the results of NEET were announced — the Tamil Nadu government hadn’t updated syllabus for a very long time and woke up from deep slumber only after the entrance exam became reality.
An inconsolable Amudha said she was with her daughter on that fateful day and had even seen Prathiba scribbling something on a paper, her suicide note.
Umapriya, wiping her mother’s tears, asks how students from government schools in rural parts can compete with those from urban areas who have access to better education and abundant study materials. “Isn’t the NEET exam itself discriminatory? How can you abandon the marks scored in plus-two exams and consider only the marks of the entrance exam?” she asked.
Though political parties have promised to do away with NEET, Umapriya isn’t convinced — the MCA graduate says she is sceptical since no political party fulfils promises made.
But Shanmugam and Amudha hope NEET will be done away within Tamil Nadu and no more lives are lost.