The recent suicides by two matriculation students ostensibly due to their failure in examination have added another blot on educational landscape. Thanks to decreasing stress tolerance, many such incidents have come to light during the last few months as the students fail to cope with the stress and stigma of failure. Many believe that undue expectations by teachers and parents drive the young ones to extreme step.

Following suicides by schoolchildren as well as Government College University and Punjab University students, two matriculate students (a girl and a boy) committed suicide this past week after they failed in a couple of subjects.

Psychologists believe that social and personal factors are sapping the confidence of the whole society and children as well as adolescents are the hardest hit. Educationists see it as society’s flawed approach towards education.

Punjab University Psychology Department chairperson Prof Dr Rukhsana Kausar says it is natural that all children or those in their early teens do not have the same level of learning and competence to excel in examinations. “Some pass, some fail and some post brilliant scores. Does this mean that the children who fail lose the right to live,” wonders Dr Kausar.

She says the prevalent education system that revolves around schooling, tuitions, home works and securing top positions has deprived the children of social and psychological wellbeing. They lack time to socialise and meet people.

Dr Kausar further says the joint family system has almost vanished from our society. It would afford children opportunity to do their catharsis and find solutions to their not-so-serious problems.

The single unit family, she says, is ignoring children and adolescents in pursuit of earning and making both ends meet. Parents fail to give quality time to their children and some of them find nothing worthwhile in their lives after meeting with failure.

“Attitudes of parents and teachers need to be re-visited to enable them to look after their children and students in a caring manner,” she says. Parents must find time to notice their children’s behaviour including withdrawal of inter-personal relations and less interest in studies, she adds.

The PU academic also urges the government to arrange psychological counselling services in schools so that children could express themselves, seek counselling and get relieved.

The PU has set up a Counselling Unit at its Health Centre and almost 100 students get benefit every month. “Now, the university is arranging two psychologists because the varsity employees are also approaching to seek psychological help,” she says.

Referring to a GCU student’s suicide after his intermediate examination results, Dr Kausar said the boy could not tolerate the strain of failure even to the extent of verifying his ‘shocking’ results.

Dr Kausar, who investigated the suicide committed by a third-year student of the PU College of Art and Design’s architecture department, said the boy was suffering from long-term psychological issues and had depression history. However, reports said the boy had written a suicide note and was not comfortable with the system at his department. He was under stress after failure.

As for the matriculate students’ suicides, she said, the media exposure had developed a sense of competitiveness and sensitivity among children. She said the girl student also figured out that swallowing toilet bleach would take her life. “It is so scary”.

She stresses that factors behind low stress tolerance need to be identified.Lahore College for Women University Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Sabiha Mansoor says society’s approach towards education is wrong. The government is rewarding only top scorers in board and university examinations, ignoring the fact that it is causing immense emotional stress for many others including those who have the ability to excel in other fields of arts.

She says the government needs to do ‘handholding’ of the weak students. The government needs to reward all those who earn better marks than the scores they present at the baseline entry point of a class. The educational institutions must mainstream students, those belonging to lower income group and deprived.

Stating that there is a complete breakdown of value system in society, Dr Mansoor stresses that the role of teachers becomes crucial to handle emotional stress of their students. Simultaneously, she says, the parents should also realise their responsibilities towards their children and stop pressurising them to fulfill their dreams.

“My belief is that the top achievers are those who do not perform well in matriculation and intermediate but excel when they go for specialisation because of their interest area,” she says. “Sir Winston Churchill had failed in examination but later rose to the status as high as the UK prime minister,” she cites an example.

As long as the government will prefer bureaucratic policies to efforts by experts in relevant fields, Dr Mansoor says, the wellbeing of society will remain a distant dream.

“We have enough experts available in Pakistan to change the fate of this nation,” she remarks.

About the recent suicides, the LCWU VC said the morale of students was very low and needed to be improved through counselling.

“We do offer counselling services to our students on varsity campus and some 40 to 50 students visit varsity’s psychologist on a daily basis. Sometimes students’ stories are horrendous and counselling helps them fight out courageously.”

Child Rights Movement’s Baela Raza Jamil said the mindless approach of getting abnormal level of high marks was creating pressure and tension for children and their families. Stating that those who do not reach the desired level lose their value in their own eyes, she calls for a re-think of the entire education system.

“The children who are not high performers in academics can be high performers in innovations. So they must be protected,” she suggests.

Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Lahore, chairman Muhammad Nasrullah Virk says parents and teachers must monitor children on a regular basis. He calls for reviving tutorial sessions and ‘Bazm-i-Adab’ in colleges and schools. – mansoormalik173@hotmail.com

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