Sushant Rohilla: Points to Ponder
About 12 days ago, Sushant Rohilla, a 21-year old student of Amity Law School committed suicide. His family and friends have blamed the attendance policy of the college and the University to which it is affiliated. There has been a lot of supportive evidence that is being quoted ““ excerpts from a letter this student wrote to the college authorities, screenshots of his conversation with friends about being targeted by a certain teacher and Facebook posts by his relatives. The teacher in question and the Director of the institution have since resigned from their posts. Even as the School says that the investigations are ongoing, there appears to be a palpable sense of relief among the students. Time will reveal a lot of things that are presently unclear; however, there are definite takeaway messages even at this stage.
All universities have fixed rules regarding attendance. Colleges affiliated to these universities need to follow these rules. Of course, when it comes to exceptional cases, such as illness or health problems, bereavement, or involvement in extracurricular activities as a representative of the institution, most colleges have some sort of a system that allows a reasonable relaxation in the rules.
From the present reports available, according to data put out by an enquiry committee of the college, Sushant”™s attendance was a mere 29%. It also says that even after allowing attendance for moot court competitions in which he participated, the attendance was only 43%. Given that this information is true, it is difficult to understand how a student could run up such a massive shortage of attendance for just a foot injury and participation in extracurricular activities.
The college claims it had informed the student as well as his father by email on 11th July about shortage of attendance. Why then did the parents not step in to nip the problem in the bud or intervene with the college authorities?
After the initial flurry about the attendance shortage died down, it emerged that there were some faculty members who behaved unprofessionally and targeted students by detaining them. Students of Amity Law School began a protest against these, accusing that their torture is what contributed to Rohilla”™s breakdown. These teachers have since resigned, and this step has helped placate emotions to some extent. It is sad, but an unfortunate bitter fact that only incidents such as the loss of a student”™s life drives educational institutions to look into the behavior of their teaching staff.
What is considered a “noble” profession is today inhabited by quite a few people with most ignoble intentions. For several reasons, teaching no longer attracts the best of minds; rather, it is mostly the discards, persons who felt they had no other career option available, who get into teaching. Emotionally immature teachers carrying their own baggage of low self-esteem, inadequacy and incompetence, can never be capable of nurturing students to achieve their true potential. Instead, in a bid to satisfy their petty egos, such teachers seek to exert their authority over the students who are forced by our educational system to bend and even give up their curiosity and individuality to get through the system unscathed.
But if there is one fact that greatly bothers even the most genuine of teachers, it is this. Student mentality has undergone a sea change in the past few years. Despite repeated cautioning, many students are lost in their own world of having fun with friends, hanging out on social media and generally making the most of a new-found freedom after the stringent lifestyle of school. Despite trying to get the students to comply with attendance rules, when there is no change in the students”™ behavior, the institution then is left with no alternative to informing the parents, imposing a fine or debarring from exams in a bid to rein them in.
In the past few years, this writer has also had the experience of students giving out a friend”™s or their own alternative number or email id as the parent”™s so that the communication intended for the parents never reaches them at all. Swayed by their wards”™ inputs of the teachers”™ attitudes or due to an unwillingness to believe that their kids can be wrong, quite a few parents also blindly support their kids and turn combative towards the college authorities.
What to introspect on
Sushant Rohilla, by the accounts of his friends and family, was a brilliant boy, a captivating speaker, a proactive organizer of events and an inspirational figure. In other words, he had all the trappings of a winner. Why then did he feel so disillusioned with a setback such as having to lose out on one year? Why, in his suicide note, did he call himself a failure and say he was ashamed of not being a good son, brother and friend?
Year after year, this writer has seen students miss out on a year because of family problems, illness during exams, a sudden accident and several other reasons and they have always gone on to do well later in life. Isn”™t it important for us ““ as parents, as teachers, as friends and even as society as a whole ““ to realize that while we stress on academics, the fact remains that in the real world, it is performance that counts? Armed with all those qualities of a winner, Sushant could have gone on to achieve great things. How unfortunate and infinitely sad it is that such a person who had so much going for him, felt he had no other alternative to seeking a permanent escape from the world to whom he had so much to offer.
This untimely death of a student must lead to corrective action in his college. More importantly, it should make all of us introspect on what we need to change in our educational system and societal mindset if we wish our students to have a truly bright future.
The writer is a teacher of Pharmacy based at Bengaluru. She has authored a textbook dealing with plant-based medicines and Indian systems of medicine. She volunteers as a counsellor with a non-profit organization that conducts value education workshops for college students. Anusuya is an engaging speaker, freelance writer andÂ bloggerÂ focused on a journey towards inner radiance. Her Twitter handle is @Ranga_anu