For no fault of theirs

For no fault of theirs

Student suicides

Someone rightly said that the person who commits suicide dies once, those left behind die a thousand deaths, reliving those terrible moments and asking of themselves, “why?” Truly speaking, suicide is a permanent ‘solution’ to a temporary problem. In the past few decades, student suicide has become an ‘epidemic’. Bustling with aspirations and in the prime of their youth, students harbour lofty dreams. When unable to translate them into reality, they fall into despondency, which sometimes overpowers their impressionistic minds in such a powerful way that they choose to take the extreme step. 

My research on the issue led me to Kota, Rajasthan, which has come to be known as India’s suicide capital. One is astonished to witness the mushrooming growth of IIT entrance test ‘coaching centres’ in every nook and corner of Kota. This sleepy little town is home to more than 150 coaching centres, the owners of which are rolling in luxury due to their booming business. They bear testimony to the fact that our education system has been reduced to just a money-making industry.

Having taken admission into one of these centres, the aspirants have to adhere to a rigorous study regime, for which not all are fully prepared nor equipped with the skills needed. These days, unfortunately, not only students but most parents also suffer from ‘peer complex’.

When they see that the son or daughter of a relative or friend pursuing a certain course, they want their own offspring, whether they have the aptitude and ability or not, to do the same. Most parents thus do not offer enough room to their children to shape their own education and career. Such parents only burn with one desire — that their child must either become an engineer or a doctor. The consequences of such arbitrary decisions often turn out to be catastrophic, even fatal for children.  

When a student is sent to coaching centres such as those in Kota, her parents shell out a considerable amount of money. The annual fee of about Rs 2 lakh in these centres burns a role into the not-so-deep pockets of the parents. Loans are taken at high interest rates. All of this exerts high pressure on the minds of the students. When one fails under such circumstances, killing oneself seems a better option than to live and face up to the stigma.

Undeniably, it is our inefficacious education system that must be held responsible for the rising number of student suicides. In the absence of quality education at school level, all children are not properly trained to cope with the arduous challenges ahead in higher education.

Under the very nose of the government, the coaching institutes flagrantly flout the prescribed code of conduct with impunity. The code clearly states that it is mandatory for every institute to conduct an aptitude test for every student before admitting her. Contrary to the norms, most of these institutes do not conduct this much-needed aptitude test, and when it is conducted, it is a mere eyewash to hoodwink the authorities. In grave violation of the rules, these coaching shops keep on admitting students and thrive on the hard-earned money of their parents.

When students without the prerequisite aptitude for such studies are unable to measure up to the social and parental expectations, the venom of depression begins to show its lethal effect. Drowned in guilt, the hapless students find themselves entangled in a vicious circle, out of which many fail to come out alive. It is reported that a youngster commits suicide every hour in the country. This is itself an understatement. These statistics are presented on the basis of reported incidents; many cases of student suicide go unreported.

No doubt, umpteen students end their precious lives every year in Kota in the rat race to obtain seats in the IITs and top-notch medical colleges, but this ghastly saga of suicides is not restricted to Kota alone. Like an epidemic, it has spread everywhere. If some students with no aptitude do manage to reach the corridors of a medical or an engineering college, they often yield to the pressures of the gruelling course and end up depressed and take recourse to the extreme step.

Reform the system

It is time for the government and the parents to understand these realities and rise to the occasion to prevent such suicides. Children must be given autonomy to take the vital decision of what they want to do in their lives. At the
same time, it also becomes imperative for the government to put in place some robust measures to reinvigorate our crumbling education system. The flawed elementary education system must be revamped as it has failed miserably to deliver the goods.

It is also an unpalatable truth that our governments have never cracked down on this ‘killer’ coaching industry. In the absence of stringent rules and regulations for the coaching institutes, many innocent young lives have been snuffed out. All coaching institutes must be brought under the scanner. Along with career counsellors, competent psychiatrists must be recruited in every government and private educational institute. We cannot afford to let our students fall into the quagmire of academic stress and depression and end their lives prematurely.   

(The writer is Head, Department of English Language and Linguistics, Dev Samaj Post Graduate College For Women, Ferozepur)