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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mumbai: 16-year-old boy commits suicide by jumping off 8th floor from Mulund high-rise - Free Press Journal

— By FPJ Web Desk | Jul 07, 2018 11:35 am

Representational image

On Friday, a 16-year-old student allegedly committed suicide in Mulund. The 16-year-old boy, who was preparing for the IIT entrance exam, jumped from the 8th floor of a high-rise in Mulund.

According to Mid-Day, the incident took place on Friday between 8 am and 8.30 am. The boy went up to the 8th floor, a refuge area of the building, and jumped off. After the boy fell down, the residents of the building immediately rushed him to Fortis Hospital where he was declared dead. The boy’s father works in the UK, and during the incident, his mother had gone to gym and elder brother was out playing football.

A police officer from Mulund police station told the leading daily, “We have talked to the family and many people who knew him, but no one could tell us whether he was depressed or in trouble. Everybody is shocked. We are scanning his mobile phone records and social media accounts for clues.” The police have registered an Accidental Death Report and are trying to find the reason behind the suicide. No suicide note has been found yet.

A day in the life of A Gomathi, an aspiring medical student from Tamil Nadu state board - Indian Express

A second 17-yr-old has killed herself in TN after failing to clear NEET despite high marks in Class 12. Gomathi tries not to let this, the “unfair” system, and 20 hrs of 12 textbooks daily, kill her spirits

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Updated: July 7, 2018 

 Gomathi with her parents at her Chennai home. A big photo of Ambedkar and posters of star Ajith adorn the walls. (Arun Janardhanan)

The last show at INOX multiplex at Virugambakkam in Chennai ended around 1 am. Two hours later, on a narrow street behind it, A Gomathi, 17, begins her day. She doesn’t dream much while asleep, for around three hours every night, till 3 am. But her every waking moment is spent dreaming of only one thing: becoming a doctor.

Last year, Gomathi topped Class 12 at her Jaigopal Garodia Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Virugambakkam, scoring 93 per cent marks in the Biology-Mathematics stream. She had aced Class 10 too at her school, with 95 per cent marks. By now, she had hoped to be enrolled to become a doctor. However, she wasn’t among the successful candidates in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical and dental courses, results for which came out on June 4 — among the many students in Tamil Nadu who failed, and who fear the CBSE-oriented test puts the nine lakh-plus students like them taking Class 12 exam from the state board every year at a disadvantage.

In September last year, S Anitha, 17, of the state’s Ariyalur district had committed suicide when she failed to clear NEET after having scored 98 per cent marks in Class 12. Recently, another 17-year-old, Pradeepa, who had scored 94 per cent in Class 12, killed herself, in Tiruvannamalai district, after NEET failure.

Gomathi tries not to think about this as she squats on the floor in her 400 sq ft, two-room house, beneath a large portrait of B R Ambedkar. The photograph was a gift at her wedding, smiles mother A Malathi. As Gomathi studies uninterrupted till 7.30 am, Malathi says she will keep her company, and “Ambedkar will be watching over her”.

Ambedkar shares space on that wall with half-a-dozen portraits of actor Ajith. All those belong to Gomathi’s elder brother A Manikandan, a B.Sc computer science student who is a fan of the actor.

For the next four-odd hours, in a sweltering room cooled by only a fan and lit by one bulb, as Gomathi fights sleep, tiredness and often boredom, her father R Anbazhagan, her grandmother and Manikandan sleep in a thatched-roof cottage next door.

Says Malathi, 42, “Gomathi has been following this routine since Class 10, except for 40 days of coaching provided by the state government in April.”

Anbazhagan works with a private TV showroom as a cleaner and earns around Rs 7,500 a month. “So we can’t afford to pay Rs 45,000 for NEET coaching,” Malathi says.

Parents of Tamil Nadu state board students like Malathi believe that because of this, their children can never breach the gap to NEET. Political parties in the state have questioned the decision to not take into account Class 12 results, as used to happen earlier in the state, but bank on just entrance tests for medical admissions, where children with coaching can score. With the introduction of NEET, the quota kept for Tamil Nadu in the state’s medical colleges — as well as a government quota in private medical colleges — has also ended.

At 22, Tamil Nadu has the most number of government medical colleges in the country.

At the peak of the anti-NEET protests in the state following Anitha’s suicide, the state government had announced NEET coaching centres for underprivileged students. A one-month programme was run in April this year as part of this, at nine centres. Around 3,000 students were part of these camps. Gomathi attended one such centre near Chennai, along with 400 students from 12 different districts.

In the days leading up to this year’s NEET, held on May 6, Gomathi knew there was something afoot — with protests, TV debates, and political discussions on. But, she says, she kept her mind focused on what she had to do. “I know that I may not clear NEET next year too, as I don’t have coaching. Still, I have to give it a try. Who else will try for me?” she says.
Around 7.30 am, Gomathi gets up from the floor, packs away her books and heads to the kitchen to help her mother with chores.

But the talk keeps returning to NEET. This year her score was 90 out of 720, six marks short of 96, the cut-off for Scheduled Caste students. The family is Adi Dravida. But that can’t be her benchmark, Gomathi says. “I won’t get a medical seat unless I score better.” Low marks would mean a seat only in high-paying private colleges — not an option for her.

However, she wonders, why the entrance exam asked her things she had “never learnt”. “I just cleared Class 12. You ask questions from what I learnt all these years,” Gomathi says.
Around 8.30 am, Anbazhagan leaves for work. He mostly skips breakfast so as to reach the shop as early as possible. Once in a while, when he has time and can rouse himself after a day’s work, Anbazhagan makes black coffee for Gomathi while she is studying.

As brother Manikandan leaves for his college, the private Meenakshi College of Engineering, around 9 am, Gomathi smiles wistfully, “He is lucky, he doesn’t want to become a doctor.”
Unlike him, Gomathi doesn’t have a favourite actor either. In fact, she says, while they stay next door to the multiplex, she has never been to a cinema theatre. Neither has she gone to malls or even Marina Beach. “I have seen the beach from the bus,” she says.

Her first visit to Chennai’s emerging neighbourhood, Anna Nagar, 6 km away, was when she went to write the NEET exam. Outside Chennai, she has gone to Mamallapuram, once, when in Class 5. She is not sure if she has ever seen the gates of IIT-Madras.

As the house grows quiet again, Gomathi goes back to studying. She will go on till evening, with just a lunch break in between. Most of her study material, stacked on a chair, deals with Biology. Physics and Chemistry make up the rest of the 12 textbooks.

The three-hour NEET exam has 180 questions, all multiple choice, including 90 from Biology, and 45 each from Physics and Chemistry. Gomathi says the NEET coaching provided by the government also focused on Biology. “But only 10 out of 180 questions from what we learnt at the centre came.”

Plus, she wonders, why the multiple choice questions. “Don’t writings and critical analysis help give an original answer? Shouldn’t they test that, ask my interest in becoming a doctor? Why is the government selecting MBBS students thus?” she asks.

Two students of her school who managed to clear NEET with the help of coaching also couldn’t get a medical seat, Gomathi adds. “Does all the rote learning and tricks that coaching teaches you for good scores in NEET help a doctor? Does it help a doctor do critical surgery? If the state board syllabus is at fault, why do CBSE students too need coaching?”

It’s 3 pm, and looking on at her daughter, Malathi says, “She never asks for jewels or costumes, anyway we couldn’t afford to….” Apart from the books, she adds, her daughter’s possessions include four sets of salwar-suits, two sets of school uniforms, and a new cellphone.

For the past five years, Gomathi had been getting an annual scholarship of Rs 1,800 from a private trust. “After Class 12, we decided to leave it to her to do what she wanted with it. She bought a phone. That is her only source to get information on admissions,” Malathi says.

Anbazhagan returns home late, as does Manikandan, after hanging out with friends. The TV is kept shut as Gomathi continues her studies. She says she will be up till midnight.
But she doesn’t grudge any of that, Gomathi says, nor the sleep of only three hours, nor “not having any other dreams except NEET”. What the 17-year-old wants is answers to a few more questions: “Why not provide us equal opportunity before forcing us to compete with CBSE, ICSE students? If the Prime Minister came, I would tell him, ‘I will prove myself but give us equal education before you make us write a common exam’.”

As posters of ‘toppers’ go up, another 80,000 enter race for NEET at Kota - Indian Express

The results are in, the posters of ‘toppers’ are up, and Kota is set to begin another year of preparing, praying. Till then, for a while, students can ‘relax’

Written by Deep Mukherjee | Updated: July 7, 2018 4:50:12 pm

            In queue at a Kota coaching centre. Express

It’s easy to spot the students in Kota. They walk in groups, clutching umbrellas bearing the names of coaching centres in the city as the mercury goes over 42 degrees. Others, much older, in their late 20s, zoom past on motorcycles, their T-shirts with the faded names of coaching institutes indicating a much longer stay. It’s also easy to spot the ‘successful’ students in Kota.

It’s the month of results of competitive medical and engineering entrance examinations, and at the entrances of the city’s coaching centres, to which aspirants from across the country flock, hang life-size pictures of the ‘toppers’, many of them flashing the victory sign. Down below, every available space along roads is covered with posters of yoga guru Baba Ramdev.

The JEE Advanced results, for admission to the coveted IITs, followed by other top engineering colleges, came 10 days ago. Of the estimated 1.5 lakh students enrolled at any time in the big and small 30-odd coaching centres in Kota, around 7,000 qualified this year. At least 60,000 qualified for counselling in the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) exam for medical admissions, results for which were declared on June 4, a jump of at least 25,000 over the average of the past three years.

Between these numbers lies another ominous figure, of suicides, 12 so far this year by students. In order to stem the suicides, coaching centres have introduced a series of measures to help their students de-stress, but after falling from 20 in 2016 to seven last year, the suicide numbers are up again.

                Towered over by ‘toppers’. Express

But in Kota, life has already moved on, with many of those who failed to make it pitching their tents in for another year, and at least 80,000 new hopefuls flooding in. Coaching centres estimate that only half of those who don’t make it any year leave; the rest stay back to give the entrance exams another try.

Amidst the incessant commotion near Kota’s Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, 19-year-old Ranjit Kumar is fidgeting with his mobile phone outside a bank, checking for messages. “For some technical reasons, mobile alert messages about bank transactions and funds transfer have stopped, and this results in a lot of problems. I am here to solve this glitch as I will be staying here for another year,” says Kumar, a resident of Siwan in Bihar.
Kumar, who had appeared for NEET this year but couldn’t qualify, will soon join the students popularly known as ‘The Thirteens’ in the coaching hub.

“Thirteens are the students who stay for one more year after their Class 12 exams in order to take another chance at qualifying. The coaching centres have separate batches for them called the leaders’ batches,” explains Kumar.

The institutes also give a discount to students repeating a year, starting from 10 per cent. But Kumar says he is discussing with his family whether he can join a different centre this year, in the hope that it will help him qualify.

Piyush Singh, 18, has just arrived from hometown Korba in Chhattisgarh. Having failed to clear the JEE Advanced, Singh decided that his best shot was moving to Kota. “All the best coaching centres are here,” says Singh. Having come just two days ago, the 18-year-old is yet to find a place and is for now staying with a friend. Standard accommodation in Kota costs Rs 10,000-15,000 a month, including room charges and food, with electricity bill separate.

Navendu Jha, a resident of Patna, who has come to enrol his son Shubham, who wants to prepare for NEET, says, “At times we do get scared after hearing about student suicides, but it’s also true that one has a much better chance of qualifying for the competitive exams studying at institutes here.” Jha adds that he had to search for several days before he could find an accommodation where his son could study without “disturbance”.

Nitesh Sharma, the chief media and marketing officer of Allen Career Institute, Kota’s biggest coaching centre by far, says their student numbers have risen from last year. “Around 67,000 students have already taken admission and we are expecting the figure to cross 1 lakh by the end of this year,” he says.

Scattered around roadside eateries and mobile recharge shops, many students sitting with friends, earphones plugged in, are enjoying a break from their gruelling schedules. Suman Kumar Verma, who came to Kota a month ago to prepare for NEET, admits one thing unites all of them. “It is easier to study because everyone relates with the other owing to their same objectives.”

Still, as Nishant Ingole, 17, from Aurangabad, says, this period, after the results and with nearly a year to go for the next exam, is their best at Kota. “Every day, I have around seven hours of classes, but at this time, we have some time to listen to music, go out with friends to places such as Chambal Garden in the city, and relax.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The suicide narratives - Deccan Herald

The suicide narratives
Avijit Pathak, 
JUN 10 2018, 23:46PM IST UPDATED: JUN 10 2018, 23:59PM 

IST Violence is not merely physical; quite often, it is cultural, symbolic and psychic, and its consequences are devastating...

Read more at:

“Marks don’t matter”: Indian comics try to comfort students amid a suicide crisis - Quartz


“Marks don’t matter”: Indian comics try to comfort students amid a suicide crisis

Give the kids a break. (Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)

Ananya Bhattacharya
June 11, 2018 
Quartz India

Every year, between March and June, millions of school students in India find themselves under the cosh.

A section goes delirious with joy, soaking in the accolades and attention after the results for the the annual class 10 and class 12 exams are released. Another group, having done reasonably well, simply moves on.

And those that fail sink into despair, not having met the expectations of parents and teachers, or securing college admissions. Often, this results in tragedy as the students, unable to bear the pressure of expectations,commit suicide. Every hour, one child in India takes his or her own life often due to failure, fear of failure, forced career choices, and the general stigma attached to mental distress.

So, for some time now, India’s new crop of comedians has tried soften the blow for this embattled group, mixing humour with some key life lessons.

Laughing it off

In 2015, standup comedian Zakir Khan pulled no punches. He took digs at all those, including the neighbourhood “uncle” with the creepy smile, who constantly remind students of the “boards,” a much-dreaded umbrella term for the class 10 or class 12 annual tests in India.

Many like Khan have hit close to home while making light of the pressure-cooker atmosphere in the run-up to the exam and admission season. Kenny Sebastian and Piyush Sharma have discussed the ridiculousness of obsessing over marks and the media’s fetish for “toppers.” Comedian Ssumier S Pasricha, in his avatar as the popular “Pammi Aunty,” offered his take on how marks have no bearing on real life.

All India Bakchod (AIB), one of the most popular comic groups, asked its viewers to share their experiences of not doing well in exams and still getting it right later in professional life.

These attempts often evoke positive responses.

Over 77,600 people liked AIB’s post, which also got more than 1,000 comments. “Scored 59 in my exams. Much less than everyone around me. But now I’m the youngest person in the world to be part of an elite expedition team researching Anacondas in the Amazon rainforest,” 17-year-old aspiring herpetologist Saish Solankar commented on AIB’s post. “Marks don’t matter. Exposure does.”

Back in 2016, Vir Das, the first Indian-origin comedian to bag a Netflix special, posted a heart-warming video to help students. The next year, he shared his own mark-sheet, with low grades, on Facebook.

This year, as Das’s old video sparked some negative responses, with a handful insisting that marks do matter, the standup artiste clapped back:

Vir Das

To every adult writing in saying "You're an idiot, marks DO matter!"

1. I am an idiot.
2. MOST of the kids haven't got the marks they want, Think about the message you're sending them today.

Put your selfish need to gloat about academics aside, and say something supportive.
11:48 PM - May 26, 2018
122 people are talking about this
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Mallika Dua, who shot to fame with her multi-character dubsmash appearances, also got candid about failing the first year of her degree course at Delhi University (DU). She was admitted to her graduation course based on her extra-curricular activities—up to 5% of DU’s seats are reserved for students who get in by demonstrating prowess across categories like dance, music, theatre, debate, and other fine arts. Eventually, she went abroad and “did really well” away from all the rote-learning.

“Yes, big companies consider pedigree important but I highly doubt a 93 percenter is an idiot and a 98 percenter some genius,” she wrote in a screenshot shared on Instagram. “The idea is to make the system realise it’s uselessness, not the children who have no choice but to abide by it.”

However, it is not easy to wish away the importance of marks among Indian students. Like a post on News18 said:

Like, good for you Mallika Dua but what about the students who cannot afford to go abroad? And failing in University would essentially mean repeating a year. There’s no short cut in here.
Why the stress

Indeed, there is no escaping marks and their implications in the Indian education system, partly because of the way it is structured.

With demand for seats in institutions of higher learning only rising, the cut-off thresholds for admission is often unreasonable. “At Lady Shri Ram College, an aspirant needs to have an aggregate score of 100.5% to get into the Psychology (H) course,” the Times of India newspaperreported in June 2015.

Then, there are the much sought-after professional courses—engineering, medicine, and others. At the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technlogy (IIT), for instance, the acceptance rate is a minuscule 2%. In 2017, nearly 12,00,000 students appeared for the exam to win the 11,000-odd seats in the IITs. Thus, the mad scramble and the early preparations by teachers, parents, and millions of students.

Under pressure, parents splurge thousands of rupees hourly on specialised tutorials. Over 70 million students—over a quarter of the country’s student population—are enrolled in this parallel education system. Data from industry association Assocham reveal that 87% of primary school children and 95% of high schoolers in metropolitan cities opt for private tuition.

And when after all that students are unable to “make it” by scoring well or even, at times, failing, everything comes down on them like a ton of bricks. What adds to their woes is a lack of a system to counsel them or suggest a plan B. It is here that media, internet celebrities, and even movies have come to play a constructive role. And India’s young comedians are chipping in.

“It increases awareness that we are all vulnerable. When these people come out and talk about how they failed but are still so successful, people can relate and think ‘I can still be successful, too’,” said Richa Singh, co-founder of online counselling platform YourDost. “It needs to happen more.”