Mar 26, 2013

MaFo covered in New Indian Express today 26th March 2013

Government, universities put on suicide watch

26th March 2013 11:30 AM
As we approach the cruellest month of April, the issue that’s exercising the High Court is the phenomenon of student suicides. On Monday, a division bench of the court asked universities in the city to file reports on student suicides within a week, and appointed an amicus curiae to assist it in the matter.
With troubled Intermediate students falling like withered flowers this exam season, the Board of Intermediate has been impleaded in the matter.
Nine university students have committed suicide in the city in the past one year, and the Intermediate exams earlier this month produced a rash of self-extinguishments -- including one by a child who decided to ‘punish’ her hands for writing a poor mathematics exam by putting them under the wheels of a running train.
Taking up student suicides suo motu, chief justice N V Ramana and justice Vilas V Afzulpurkar lined up a long list of authorities to fill in aspects of the problem and find ways to rid society of it. These include all the high functionaries who might have the power to do something: the chief secretary, principal secretaries of home and higher education, collectors of Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts, police commissioners of Hyderabad and Cyberabad, chairman of the University Grants Commission, and registrars of 10 universities in the state capital: University of Hyderabad, Osmania University, English and Foreign Languages University, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Ambedkar Open University, N G Ranga Agricultural University, NALSAR University of Law, Potti Sree Ramulu Telugu University, Moulana Azad National Urdu University and Indian Institute of Technology.
Monday was the deadline for universities to file their reports but only a few had complied and were therefore given a week more to report steps they have taken to prevent suicides. The Board of Intermediate Education has been given 10 days.
It has been ordered to submit the report of the Neerada Reddy Committee, which studied student suicides in residential junior colleges long ago.
On Monday, amicus curiae D Prakash Reddy said he has received a report from Osmania University about the steps taken by the latter in counselling the students.
Among the institutions that have already reported to the High Court, NALSAR said it has set up a counselling centre on campus and employed psychological counsellors to talk to troubled students.Learnings available from suicide helplines indicate a need to counsel parents as much as students. The Makro Foundation, which runs a helpline (040-46004600, open 10 am to 7 pm), reports that during the exam season, it receives 12-15 calls every week and an equal number of online counseling requests on live chat, the peak stress time being 4 pm to 6.30 pm.
G Aparna, manager of Makro Foundation, says many of the students make one request: “Can you please talk to my parents?”
That same need for counselling parents comes through during visits to government schools, which lack trained counsellors. “Often parents ask us to counsel them as well as their wards to stay calm during the examinations,” says Aparna. The city’s chain of cram schools also have begun to get to grips with parental pressure on children during exams. Most of them instruct parents to stop talking to their children one day prior to the exam and sequester the students on the morning of the exam.

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