What could possibly make a 15-year-old student believe that there is no choice but death? We have seen about 10 students commit suicide immediately after Class X results in Andhra Pradesh. This year, for the first time in two decades, the pass percentage slipped to 67.26%. In other words, more than two lakh students failed the high school certification exam. The reasons are obvious.
No exams have been held for the past two years due to the pandemic, and online lessons meant that poor and lower-middle-class students, especially in public schools, were deprived of a proper education. . The fact that the pass rate was well over 90 in the four years before Covid-19 shows the kind of impact it has had on education.
Other states like Assam also posted dismal results this time around. Andhra government is conducting the exam again for failed students – this is a relief but something needs to be done not only to improve the standards in the post-Covid scenario but also to ease the pressure on students. According to the National Crime Records Bureau report, 469 students took their own lives in 2020 in Andhra compared to 383 the previous year. How long are we going to turn a blind eye to this silent epidemic? Yes, not all suicides are due to academic pressure, but the fact that the numbers are increasing not only in schools but also in higher institutes of learning is cause for grave concern. Earlier this year, two students committed suicide at IIIT-Nuzvid and we found that no professional counselors were available for 9,000 students at the prestigious institution.
Administrators, teachers, and parents have the same responsibility to check on the emotional well-being of children. It’s time to make stakeholders understand the importance of mental health and include it in the curriculum. Recognition of early signs of depression in children is necessary and the role of parents and teachers is crucial. Administrators should ensure active engagement between parents and teachers and use the services of professional counsellors. Class X results should be a red flag. To begin with, the government could seek expert advice to formulate a way forward on a priority basis.