Photo courtesy of Biswarup Ganguly (WikiCommons)

Photo courtesy of Biswarup Ganguly (WikiCommons)

Peer pressure and fear of failing their examinations is driving students in India to commit suicide.

In the central state of Madhya Pradesh more than 40 students have committed suicide this year on account of bad results.

Asia Calling’s Shuriah Niazi has this story. 

In March this year and in his final year in school, 17-year-old Abhishek Sahu hung himself just days before his exams were to due to start.

Abhishek wrote an apology letter to his parents, in which he expressed his fear of failing his physics exam.

“Sorry, mummy-papa,” he wrote, “I cannot do physics. I don’t want to fail the exam.” 

According to his school principal, Singh, he was a normal student and a well-disciplined boy. 

“He was also active in other fields and took part in various activities,” the principal said.

“From the suicide note he wrote, we could see that he was quite worried that he would not be able to pass physics. It was fear of failing the examination that drove him to end his life.”

Sixteen-year-old Adityaman Singh was year 11 student in Bhopal, also in Madhya Pradesh.

He was a well-known singer and had performed for a music channel.

But this February, Adityaman hung himself in a park in front of his house.

He had just learned that he had failed his mathematics exam.

Rajesh Bhodoria, a state police officer, investigated his death.

“Our investigation revealed that Aditya was a brilliant student till grade 10.” 

Bhodoria continued, “In grade 11, he became more involved in music and other activities. Apparently he couldn't focus on his studies and therefore got lower grades. His friends said that he was depressed because of his performance. And his chemistry and maths teachers had told him that he would have to leave the school if he failed to perform better in these subjects.”

Adityaman’s mother Aparna claims the school is responsible for her son’s suicide.

Students, she says, face far too much pressure at school, to the point of breakdown.

“He didn’t leave school at 12.30 pm when the classes ended and all other students went home,” Aparna stated. 

“After that he went to the choir practice for another three hours and then after coming home, he would rush immediately to tuition. Even then he used to miss half an hour of the tuition class. He used to eat his lunch in the car on way. His life became so busy, he could never relax. How much more can a student work?” asked Aparna.

According to the National Crime Record Bureau of Statistics, or the NCRB, data from 2005-14, shows the number of students committing suicide in Madhya Pradesh has risen in the last 10 years. 

Cases of student suicides have risen from 199 in 2005 to more than triple that in 2014. 

It’s one of the reasons the state government had decided to crackdown on schools that put unnecessary pressure on their students. 

Madhya Pradesh Education Minister Deepak Joshi explains. 

“We plan to have counsellors and psychologists in schools to guide these students and help them to deal with the academic and exam-related stress. We want to build a conducive atmosphere so that students do not feel like taking the extreme step. We must help and support the children who are depressed because of their studies,” Joshi said.

Psychologists like Dr. Rahul Sharma, say teachers must be encouraging and supportive of their students.

“The teachers should be cautious when commenting on the students’ performance, their marks the subjects they should study. They shouldn't pressure the children to score higher grades. We see sometimes children face discrimination even inside the classroom. The students who get good marks are given more attention so the students who aren't as good feel neglected and left out.”

Dr Sharma continued, “This can put pressure on some students and lead to depression.”

According to data from the NCRB, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, 4,700 students have committed suicide in past 10 years.

Many students believe that apart from teachers and schools, parents also put intense pressure on them to do well at school.

And when they feel that they can't perform better they commit suicide. 

Aafia is a grade 11 student, and believes that everyone is under pressure to excel in their studies. 

“The competition has increased,” said Aafia.

“How can you expect us to be normal when we don't deliver according to the expectations of others. After all if we suffer from peer pressure the society also puts pressure on us.”

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