Pandemic led to the shutting down of several socializing outlets. Workspaces shifted to home, and so did classrooms. Conditions in India recorded the worst effect on students. Disruption of the academic semester and online examination kept the students lingering onto the notices issued by the UGC and The Ministry of Education, Government of India.
The number of students suffering from anxiety and depression has increased during the pandemic. Several cases of suicides were reported across the country. In a report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) between 1st January 1995 and 31st December 2019, India has lost more than 1.7 lakh students. Out of these, 50% of cases belong to the latter part of the decade, and the remaining cases have been reported between the years 1995 to 2008. The data has suggested that at this rate, the number of cases of suicides is every one hour. What has been the main factor for such daunting statistics? The socio-economic and cultural conditions come into play combined with the fast-paced transfer of educational practices amid pandemics.
Lack of Bandwidth and Crippling Finances
In a heart-wrenching case last year, 19 years old Aishwarya committed suicide at her home in Telangana. She was a student of Mathematics Hons. from prestigious Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) of the University of Delhi. In a note recovered from her room, she expressed how she was burdening her family with her educational expenses. She needed a laptop to attend her lectures online as her mobile phone was not helping her. Aishwarya’s scholarship was delayed due to the pandemic, and the college authorities stated they were sorry for such a huge loss. The college provides several scholarships to merit students. They regretted that she did not reach out to any teacher.
In another case, a 15-year-old girl from Kerala reportedly committed suicide because of the lack of internet services. She was a good student, according to her teachers and parents. "She was hopeful and did well, but due to lack of any facility to continue her online classes, she took this extreme step in covid pandemic.
A similar case of an eleventh standard student shocked the city of Hyderabad. He was harassed by the school officials for delaying payment of fees. The student had already lost all hopes of getting enrolled for a Bachelors in Commerce (B.com) as he wasn’t faring well in the exams.
Such cases have now and then hinted that the students of various backgrounds are forced to take such steps when they see their families struggling to meet the ends.
Societal Pressure to pursue academics in the areas of STEM
Kriti Tripathi, a 17-year-old engineering aspirant in Kota, committed suicide in 2016 despite scoring well in her Joint Entrance Examination (JEE). She felt that engineering wasn’t for her as she was more fond of astrophysics and wanted to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics. In a five-page note, she insisted the Ministry of Human Resource Development shut the coaching institutes.
Students pursuing Engineering have pointed that only practical are not sufficient to clear the concepts. It takes a toll on the students as covid lectures have turned into an online affair. Students hardly get any time to prepare well for the exams due to no clarity. Syllabus reduction has been denied to students pursuing STEM (Science Tech. Engineering & Medical) courses. It has led to the findings that a large number of students are not confident to give exams in a healthy state of mind. Many suffer either from chronic anxiety or depression. Pressurizing students to go for an undesirable career is one of the major reasons for suicide.
Situation and Measures
Students across prestigious institutes like IITs, the University of Delhi and AIIMS have come under scanner now and then with rising cases of mental health ignorance. Online classes, on the other hand, have fueled the reports of suicides.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, 50% of the suicide cases start occuring amongst the teens when they turn 14 years old and 75% of the cases have been recorded from the age bar of 24 years. The World Economic Forum (WEF) stated that the direct and indirect costs of mental health amount to 4% and more to Global GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
According to the Education Development Centre (EDC), the campuses can take the following measures to curb such cases. One, evaluating the need for mental health services. Secondly, initiatives shall be taken to make mental health services accessible culturally and socially. Thirdly, in case such unfortunate incidents occur, the campus should take measures to notify the community and create safe spaces for grieving students. The varsity should also ensure that teachers are trained to deal with students with empathy and circulate contacts of Guidance counsellors of the institutes.
The World Health Organization has called for adopting the 10th September as World Suicide Prevention Day to raise awareness. Taking a cue from such reports, the Central Government of India announced the launch of Kiran - National Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline (1800 599 0019) on 27th August 2020. It works towards providing first aid, psychological support, distress management and psychological crisis management under the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD).
Image - Indian Express
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