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Unfailing pressure

Many students who fail their exams go into depression, some even commit suicide. But several reasons can lead to this failure, which does not indicate a bleak future

Ramesh (name changed), a student of a reputed private school in Gurgaon, was never good in studies. Rather he was always fond of playing cricket. “He was not only good, but his coach told us that he could play the game at the national and even the international level,” says his father.

But the fact that he wasn’t academically strong enough, always was a huge obstacle in his life. His parents constantly pressurised him to do well in studies, and even forced him to leave his favourite sport after he had failed pre-board exams —three months prior to the CBSE board exam.

But when Ramesh failed in his Class X board exams, that was the start of a chapter of utmost misery in his life. His school teachers and mates constantly bullied him. His parents stopped talking to him and he was never readmitted to his cricket academy. Ramesh finally became tired of all this and decided to put an end to it. On May 5, 2015, Ramesh’s body was found in his room. Doctors confirmed that he had died due to the consumption of phenyl.

This is not an isolated incident, as there are many students who cannot cope with the pressure and expectations of parents and their studies. When they fail their exams, they are not able to handle the dejection that follows and end up taking their lives. “In a country like India, if you don’t do well in your exams, especially if you fail it, you are considered a lesser human being than others. People start to mock and ridicule you,” says Rupasri Ghosh, headmistress of a Kolkata government school.

“Even the parents put a lot of mental pressure on their children when they taunt them, if they fail their exams,” says Dr Deepali Batra, a child psychologist from Delhi. “It is very traumatic for the child because he/she is made to believe that people judge you only on the basis of your intellectual ability, though he/she may be good at any other thing,” she adds.

Rupali (name changed) loves to dance and has professional training in Bharatnatyam. She has performed a number of times, each time getting huge applause for her talent. She has even learnt dance forms like contemporary and hip-hop just by watching videos on the Internet. However, when she failed her Class IX final exams, her parents discontinued her dance classes. “It’s like snatching away my dream. I never was good in studies and after the end of my dreams of being a dancer, it is extremely difficult for me to even concentrate on my studies,” she says.

“Students cannot do well in their examinations for several reasons. Some students might get anxious and overexert themselves on the day of the exam, some may even be dyslexic and may not be able to cope with so many letters, numbers and equations,” says Dr Batra.

Sooraj, son of a government office clerk, studied at a local government school near his house in Ramesh Nagar. For the past three years, he has been stuck in class IX because he has constantly failed his finals. “He was always passed with a warning each year till class VIII,” says his father. “But in Class IX the school gave up on him and he has failed thrice,” he adds. At first, his family thought that this was due to Sooraj’s lack of intelligence. But when he failed for three consecutive years, his father took him to a psychologist after consulting some of his friends. He was then diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning disorder where the child cannot read and write properly.

“Parents need to realise that dyslexia is a real problem and not just ignore it. There are parents who are not aware of this, or who cannot afford treatment. It is the school’s duty to spread awareness about it,” says Batra.

The schools are also responsible for putting pressure and ridiculing children who have failed their examins. After the last CBSE exam results came out, many government schools in Delhi refused to give readmission to 42,503 students who had failed the class X board examinations, even though they were not legally entitled to do so.

Barkha and Lalita Kadam, sisters living in south Delhi’s Amar Colony, appeared for their Class X board exams from the Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in Gokulpur, but failed this year due to various reasons. However, they and their father, Sanjay Kadam, refused to lose hope and went to the school for readmission, but the authorities refused.

In response to this arbitrary denial of readmission to failed students from various government schools across the city, 443 students and their parents filed a PIL, and with the help of lawyer Ashok Agarwal, moved the Delhi High Court. At the end of a tenacious legal battle, it was the students who came out victorious as the court on August 28 directed the Delhi Government to give readmission to all the students.

According to Dr Batra, schools should pay more attention to these failed students and not treat them like an afterthought. “There should be a student counsellor in every school who should understand these students and find out why they are failing. They might be dyslexic, they might be in the wrong group of friends, or they might not be that strong in academics,” she says. “Instead of scolding and ridiculing them, parents and schools should look after them,” he adds.

In fact, according to Dr Batra, aggressive behaviour towards these children often leads to adverse effects. “The children often go into severe mental trauma and depression and may even develop suicidal tendencies,” she adds. According to the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were more than 2,600 deaths across the country due to failure in exams.

However, there are many examples where students have come out to be successful in their lives in spite of poor academic performance in school. Ria, a media professional currently working for one of the leading Indian channels, says that she too was harassed in her school days as she was never good in studies. “The school authorities even called my parents several times, and said that I was good for nothing and nothing would become of me when I grow up,” she says. “Despite this, my parents, instead of discouraging me, always encouraged me to do well. Hence I never went into depression,” she adds.

“If the parents support the child during tough times, it will boost the mental confidence of the child and no one will have to take his/her life,” concludes Dr Batra.