Students are losing their childhood due to mental pressure

As soon as schools start, students begin to feel the mental pressure. The constant pressure to achieve good results and percentages is always present. This pressure can lead to depression. The same happened to my friend’s daughter, and it took her five years to return to normalcy. However, when we were students, things were different. We enjoyed carefree fun, and only studied when we had spare time after playing. Transitioning from fifth grade to a larger middle school (referred to as the “big school”) was quite an experience.

In the new school, we observed that children from the nearby town were attending, and this town was considered urban by village standards. The big school attracted students from nearly 20 surrounding villages, some traveling up to 10 kilometers to attend. We noticed that there were not only children but also much older boys. It seemed odd that such older boys were in the sixth grade. Some of them were as old as our primary school teachers. By the time we reached eighth grade, we learned that many of these boys were already married. This was even more surprising, as we realized that marriage brought brides into their lives. By the time we reached tenth grade, we were studying alongside boys who were already fathers.

The girls who studied with us often got married by the time they were in the fifth or sixth grade. Now, they are grandmothers, even though it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. Back then, a boy who passed the matriculation exam was considered a young man. Today, matriculating boys seem quite immature. The prevailing belief at that time was that completing such a high grade meant one should be mature. Boys often completed their matriculation around the ages of 20 to 22. They were referred to as “educated” and were exempted from household chores to avoid disturbing their studies.

In such a stress-free environment, students experienced both mental and physical development. Over the past 25-30 years, significant changes have occurred. Nowadays, a 15-year-old child completes matriculation and is already thinking about future plans. It feels like the playful, carefree days of childhood have vanished from their lives. There is a different atmosphere now, as if preparing for a grueling race. Students live under constant pressure, affecting their physical growth. Not participating in this race leaves them behind. What a paradox this is!

If we look at the statistics, the number of student suicides has increased over the past eight years. The mental pressure of academics and results is so overwhelming that many cannot bear it. Some commit suicide even before the board exam results are announced, while others do so afterward. Over the past decade, there has been an increase in student suicides in India due to exam failures or fear of failure. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2021, 13,089 students committed suicide, with about 1,500 attributed to “exam failure.” In 2022, the number rose to over 13,000, with 1,123 cases due to exam failure. States like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu have seen more severe cases.

Today, students also fear not getting into good schools or colleges if their percentages are low. Previously, regardless of the percentage, those who wanted to study were admitted and completed their education. Even if they didn’t get into commerce, engineering, or medical fields, they would still earn degrees like BA, MA, or LLB. These degrees were proudly displayed at home, and they found good marriage prospects.

Back then, parents only wanted their children to pass exams. They didn’t care about the percentage of marks. If a child scored well, it was due to their hard work. Parents were happy just to hear that their child passed. But now, parents worry about the division and percentage of marks their children achieve. This is where childhood gets lost, and it never returns. There is a need to save childhood today. Even if children score lower marks, it is crucial to ensure their physical and mental development is not hindered. They should not fall victim to mental illness. We must strive to ensure that the burden of studies does not rob students of their childhood.

The author is known among the well-recognized bloggers of the state.

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