Did We Collectively Fail The 21 Students Who Committed Suicide In Telangana?

As the months of April and May approach, students throng to their nearest electronic devices with extreme anticipation and anxiety, to discover a few numbers which are ‘supposed’ to determine their future.

Unfortunately, for the students studying under the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education (TSBIE), April 18, 2019, turned out to be a dark day. Around 3.5 lakh students couldn’t clear the exams, allegedly due to discrepancies in the evaluation process. As students, we place immense faith in our respective examination boards to conduct error-free and rational marking. For those looking for merit-based courses, the results were nothing short of a major set back. 21 students allegedly committed suicide after the faulty declaration of results.

For representation only. Danish Siddiqui for Reuters

Parents and students took to the streets and approached the High Court seeking justice. It is said that the state board hired a private firm, Globearena Technologies Pvt Ltd, to handle the examination evaluation process. Several deserving students were marked zero or were given single digits, some were even marked absent. The overtaking of a private firm from Centre for Good Governance, a government agency, is being held accountable for the erroneous evaluation. Telangana Chief Minister, K. Chandrashekar Rao, intervened and ordered a re-evaluation of papers at the expense of INR 14-16 crores.

These suicides have been regarded as “government-sponsored murders” by a Congress leader; an ex-gratia of INR 25 lakh has been asked to grant to the deceased families. The resignation of Education Secretary has also been demanded. But, how does it change the existing level of crisis of the education system?

Irrespective of the government or private organisations, transparency and credibility are a must-have in the evaluation process. Marking should be done in an extremely rational and responsible manner, trying to avoid even the slightest discrepancies. A lot of pressure is bestowed upon examination results, they are presumed to be a certificate of an individual’s “intelligence”, students lose their sleep and battle with their examination anxiety.

Organisations hold immense power and should recognise their status and enforce better norms of regulations. When students failed by the system commit suicide, it leaves a blot on us as a society. Somewhere, we have failed those bereaved parents and students by glorifying the idea of scoring higher marks being equivalent to success in life.

Is it simply about the technical and quantitative changes? Every one hour a student commits suicide in India. The mental pressure to outperform others and the constant demand of the society takes a significant toll on their mental as well as physical health. The need for organised institutions is indeed the need of the hour; similarly, the mental health of students should not be taken for granted. Counselling should be normalised in schools and colleges, work pressure must be reduced, the atmosphere to have open conversations with guardians and people of respected positions must be initiated.

As the years come by and the population grows rapidly, the mental pressure shall increase too! With more copies to evaluate, the probability to commit errors shall increase. It is time the education system undergoes a much needed revamp. This is not just a voice for the students and parents to hear, this is a plea, for the government to recognise that there should be a better education system with zero tolerance for such erroneous evaluations. Our schools should be a better place and a healthier environment for each student; not a place to surrender to the evils of society.

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