Awareness Campaigns Have Helped Bring Down Kerala’s Student Suicides
Although stress and fear of exams continue, the number of students taking the drastic step has reduced drastically, say experts
In Kerala, there is an annual increase of 10% in parents and children seeking psychological guidance and support during the month of examinations, according to experts in the state. The main complaint from parents was of their children’s low performance in exams when compared to the neighbours’ children.
Children meanwhile complain that excess burden put on them is affecting their concentration and resulting in below average performance in exams.
“During the month of examinations, I receive at least 50 to 100 parents or students undergoing exam stress at my clinic itself. And every year, it is going up by 10%,” Arun B Nair, Associate Professor at the Government Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, told The Lede.
In response to a question in Lok Sabha in January 2018, Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir stated that while in 2014, 418 students committed suicide in Kerala, in 2015 this figure came down to 374. In 2016, the number has dropped further to 340, confirming that awareness programmes by the Kerala government is bringing in good results. According to State government figures, there are around 37.01 lakh students enrolled in 2016-17 in Kerala schools.
All over India 9200 students committed suicide in 2016. Maharashtra topped this list with 1350 students taking their lives.
“Even though there is an increase in consultations, we can say that outreach programmes and awareness programmes have stopped children committing suicide in Kerala due to exam-related stress,” Nair said.
“Unrealistic targets set by parents and failure in identifying their child’s true skills, lead to unnecessary stress which will ruin both the child and parent,” he added.
A senior official at the State Education Department said that since January, Parent Teacher Associations at schools have been meeting regularly to address such issues. “Workshops are held and scientific methods are being adopted to help parents and students to overcome exam related stress,” Higher Education Secretary Dr Usha Titus told The Lede.
“Additionally, we are developing teachers in each educational institution who can be turned into mentors to train others. We are optimistic that such initiatives will help both children and parents to overcome exam related stress,” she added.
As of 2015-16, there are 12,882 schools in Kerala. Of these, 4619 (36%) are government schools, 7140 (55%) aided schools and 1123 (9%) unaided schools.
Shajir Khan, an educational activist in Kerala, said that lack of creative space in certain schools, which only look at academic results are creating a tense situation. “Old schools were real schools. They had playgrounds and the teachers allowed freedom too. Nowadays, the unaided schools following CBSE and ICSE syllabus are more commercially driven,” Shajir Khan said.
“Children enter the so-called constrained schools from the school bus, spend time under strict conditions and return home tired. The schools are least bothered in identifying students’ real skills. They don’t want to develop the child’s intellectual capacity. They need only 100% marks or A grades in exam results,” Khan added.
He also said that parents who push children to attain unrealistic targets without realising their strengths and weaknesses contribute to stress.
MoS Ahir’s response also shows the all-India figures for suicide between 2014 and 2016 – a total of 7462 students committed suicide due to failure in examination in the country during this period.
“However, the government of India attaches highest importance in the matter and has approved implementation of the District Mental Health Programme in some of the districts of the country with added components of suicide prevention services, work place stress management, life skills training and counseling in schools and colleges,” the response added.