India’s summer heat comes with rash of student suicides
As the summer heat and monsoon rains set in each year, Indian newspapers run colorful front-page pictures of joyous high school seniors cheering over their final exam results.
But turn the page and the black-and-white reality hits home, from the lineup of brief stories on anguished students who have killed themselves.
After grades were released in late May, even seniors who scored a respectable 80 percent — or a B average — could be seen crying and walking forlornly from campuses.
India is obsessed with the numbers, and some teenagers are so wracked by anxiety that they become ill, or worse.
The day before exam results were released, a New Delhi girl named Sakshi hanged herself with a scarf, leaving a note saying she was certain she had failed. Chetna, a girl in another neighborhood, swallowed insecticide, but her parents got her to the hospital in time.
Younger students aren’t immune. In the southern state of Kerala, which has India’s highest literacy rate but also its worst suicide rate, at least nine students killed themselves on May 16, the day 10th grade exam results were released.
“The inhumane stress put on children by the parents and teachers is the cause of the this social evil — suicide,” state Education Minister Nalakathu Soopy told The Associated Press.
Thousands of students are believed to commit suicide over exams each year, but figures are sketchy as some cases are not reported as exam-related.
Many of those setting themselves on fire or hanging themselves from their bedroom ceiling fans are girls, although as a group they generally score better than boys. A growing number of Indian girls are eager to break out of centuries of tradition that put wives in servitude to husbands and mothers-in-law. They are putting off marriage until they have made something of themselves, and for many the only way out is college.
“My entire life will depend on how well I do this year,” said Koshika Anand, a 16-year-old girl who is beginning 12th grade later this month. “Girls don’t get a second chance.” A male classmate, 15-year-old Salil Choudhary, rolled his eyes and said girls have it easy.
“She can just get married, but the pressure is on us to provide for her and our own family,” said Salil, who would like to be a model or athlete but is being pushed by his parents toward engineering. —CNN