A 17-year-old student from Tamil Nadu reportedly ended her life upon not receiving her NEET exam hall ticket. The girl from Pudhukottai district, whose name has been identified as Harishma, had completed her class 12th and was waiting to take the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) Exam to pursue a medical degree. However, when all her friends received their hall tickets and she didn’t, she tried to end her life. India Today reports that her hall ticket arrived on Monday, but the student who was undergoing treatment at a hospital passed away on Tuesday.
This horrific incident begs the question – Is it wise to be conducting exams during this period of mental, physical, and emotional turmoil during the pandemic? Will taking precautions according to exam guidelines warrant mental peace to students? Are competitive exams not adding to the stress of students who may be driven to suicide?
Students Suicides Are At An All-Time High. Are Exams Necessary Right Now?
According to the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), 10,159 students died by suicide in 2018 at a rate of approximately 28 lives lost on an average each day. This is reportedly the highest count of student suicides in ten years in India.
Against these alarming statistics, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. A study by GOQii concluded that 43 percent of Indians are suffering from depression during coronavirus lockdown. Students have to deal with the additional mental strain of online classes, poor internet connections, studies, and exam worries alongside the general anxiety of the virus. In this scenario, are exams really necessary? Isn’t the mental health of students of paramount importance?
Is The Life Of A Student Valued At One Academic Year?
Students and various political ministers across India have been rallying endlessly against the conduction of NEET and JEE exams during the pandemic, and asking for its postponement. Many students wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India opposing the timing of the exam as the monsoon flood has affected many states in the country. 17-year-old Swede activist Greta Thunberg had also tweeted in support of students seeking a postponement, tweeting, “It’s deeply unfair that students of India are asked to sit national exams during the Covid-19 pandemic and while millions have also been impacted by the extreme floods.”
However ruling against the postponement, the Supreme Court had said that it would put the “career of students in peril.” The National Testing Agency (NTA) that conducts key entrance exams in the country has also supported the Centre’s decision “to save one academic year.”
Is the life of a student only valued at “one academic year”? Have careers and academics overtaken the importance of young students’ lives? When the entire world is under lockdown, universities are shut, and work-from-home is the norm, why are JEE, NEET aspirants being made the exception?
Students Condemn The Insufficient Exam Guidelines
JEE (Joint Entrance Examination Mains) Exams are being conducted between September 1-6, while National Eligibility cum Entrance Test or NEET (UG) will be held on September 13. When the NTA released the exam guidelines, it too faced backlash from students as being insufficient and rather sketchy.
Listen to @d_swati_04 a NEET aspirant from M.P.
— 11 Petitioners In Supreme Court for JEE_NEET (@11Petitioners) August 20, 2020
A NEET aspirant from Madhya Pradesh, identified as Swati Tripathi, released a video echoing the plight of hundreds of students who are to appear for the entrances. In the video, she slammed the exam guidelines that require students to wear a mask and gloves while sitting for the paper, saying that it was impossible to concentrate with this paraphernalia on. She even went on to challenge the HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, to wear the gloves for more than 20 minutes and write the exams.
Exams are actual stressors in India where intelligence is weighed through marksheets and rote learning. While students have unfortunately given in to this style of learning for years now, the current situation of emotional and mental pressure must be taken into account, and the students’ pleas must be heard. We cannot afford to lose another young student’s life to suicide.
Image Credit: ThinkStock
Views expressed are the author’s own.