Student Suicide: A failure of the system or of society at large?

Students are engineers of a nation’s future. If mishandled, it might result in collapse of the structure of a nation. In the recent past, India has witnessed several incidents of suicides of students, more often than not, for reasons related to inability in getting admitted to any institute of eminence or issues related to stress associated with societal pressure of performance in exams.  As a society this is not acceptable and is extremely harmful for the country. While changes are badly needed, it does not seem to be in the top of priorities of anyone, be it governments, schools or societies.

It is a matter of grave concern and is extremely unfortunate that we as a society have reduced our education system into a number game. The condition of the two contrasts is treated equally by us viz., a student who fails to achieve even the pass mark and the one who scores a 90% are both mocked left-right and center. Have our schools stopped inspiring?  Have they have stopped helping young minds to pursue their dreams with passion? Have schools become places for getting students trained or rather programmed to follow a one-way traffic of scoring mark and plunge in rat-race?

In most cases, the pressure on teachers is to finish the prescribed syllabus for the ensuing exam while ignoring the fact that each student has an intrinsic quality that needs to be identified and nourished, so that, they feel recognized and feel passionately compelled to pursue their dreams. Teachers are supposed to act as catalyst and trigger passion of excellence in any chosen field among young and unmolded minds. Teachers are supposed to be storytellers to trigger positivity and innovation. But alas!!  All these are now treated as redundant and avoidable activities while the sole objective has been to run against time to score marks.   I am deeply saddened by this part of the overlooked yet simple idea of inspiring to dream bigger and work harder. As this is that great country to have send missions like Chandrayaan, Mangalyaan and about to proceed with Gaganyaan and so on.

So, what happens when students are prepared to dive into a cut-throat competition cut away from their core dreams? You do create unemployable failures eventually. Early in this year we have learnt from various research reports that India produces engineers and 80% of them are unemployable. Sadly, much of that 80% are produced due to the societal or family pressure. We have seen too many failed engineers turn to some other professions and became successful.

The saddest aspect of the entire saga is that we have embedded in the DNA of every student that he or she would be looked upon with respect only when they attain degree from an engineering or medical college. Or else, the safest and the most time tested route to social stature is to try for a governmental job even if it is of the lowest denomination and much below the credentials or levels of proficiency one has. One thus is not surprised to see even qualified engineers and even PhD holders opting for the job of a Peon in government departments, which for some, is better that to strive for and struggle to attain one’s own goals be it in the realm of setting up of one’s own entrepreneurial venture or becoming an animation expert or becoming a world class player of any sporting stream.

In most cases students prefer to keep preparing even after failing repeatedly and often end up getting perpetually depressed. This faulty, stressful perspective of what defines success needs to change, not only to reduce stress but for a reason that the current market offers multiple options to build a career which was never there in the yester years to the aspiring youth of this nation to be successful due to the introduction of various technological platforms

The recent case in Telengana, where 19 students committed suicide, came as a huge shocker to this country. The incident occurred as a faulty result was published due to technical error as claimed by the government.  As I was debating on a television channel on the same issue, most  panelist was in favour of suspension and strict punishment of the culprits. But that does not solve or nullify the core of the problem. What compelled students to take their lives is the crux of the issue. Is it humiliation? Is it societal pressure? Why could they just not opt for another option that is to proceed for a scrutiny and may be for another chance to do even better? Have our schools totally failed to inculcate valuable lessons of dealing with failure among students? Has the society degenerated itself to that extent that instead of inspiring and lending hand, all that it does to faltering students is to scoff at? The answer lies within the question.

It should not be forgotten that this is the great country that has produced Narendra Modi, honourable Prime Minister of India, who despite being from a humble background and despite many of his opponents having tried their best to malign his image and mental strength, whenever he addresses the nation it inspires a billion and exemplifies his undying nature of giving his best that has made India one of the most promising emerging power in the world.

We all have grown up singing ‘Jana Gana Mana’ composed by the greatest poet in the world, Kavi Guru Rabindranath Tagore, who was homeschooled as he lacked interest to go to school but eventually became a legend and an example to all of us to learn from. We cherish Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, a freedom fighter and founder of Indian National Army, to have us freed from British torture & bondage. India is also witness to the incredible efforts and perseverance of Late Dhrubhai Ambani from who a petrol pump assistant eventually ventured to create Reliance Industries which now is a household name and has an annual turnover of around Rs 6 lakh crore.

This is something to learn from as to how to cope with difficult circumstances and strive for excellence against all odds instead of giving up.

We need to understand that a student can be happy and successful by simply providing him/her the gift of making him identify core interests, introducing career options at a primary stage and guiding accordingly with equal passion. A teacher’s job is not only to grade but to mentor, a society’s job is not just to criticize but hold hands through thick and thin and not stressing somebody that may lead to fatal results.

Why cannot we teach that failure is just a learning step? Does life really stops if one fails? Is not there any other option to select from to re-start? We cannot just blame one entity but every one of us is responsible in creation of a beautiful life.

As an educationist, I believe a drastic change is needed in our societies, families & education system to help annihilate the situation & reality of student suicide. Last but not the least, it is time for India to teach students how to handle pressure and failure. Inability to accept failure and embracing the lessons from it have been some of the most critical reasons for students taking drastic steps of taking up their precious lives. On a concluding note one has to wonder as to why India churns out PhDs in hordes while US creates world class organizations founded by college drop-outs?

Joyita Pal 


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