Taking one's own life -- and that too by a student of class IX -- suddenly brings an entire society face to face with some ugly and searching questions. On the face of it, the tragic incident simply involves the girl student's alleged adoption of unfair means in the annual examination and teachers' insult following which Aritry Adhikary, a ninth grader from Viqarunnisa Noon School and College took her own life. There are variations in reports of the immediate cause that compelled her to commit suicide. According to some newspapers, it was not the humiliation she suffered following her copying from a cell phone she brought along with her in the examination hall -which is not allowed-but also the humiliation of her father and the threat of her expulsion from the school that made her take the ultimate decision. Whether her offence was to bring the cell phone or she actually copied from it also needs to be established.
Clearly, Viqarunnisa Noon School and College on Baily Road is a highly reputed educational institution in the city. It has enviable records but certainly is not without blemishes. Politics once vitiated its academic environment with a tug-of-war escalating for quite sometime over establishing administrative authority by two groups. That phase over, the educational institution has been back on track. It is logical that the school authority would not allow examinees to bring cell phones to examination hall. It has every right to take action against any examinee for defiance of the order.
However, teachers are teachers because they act as friends, philosophers and guides and they themselves do their duties punctually. The concept has been banished from teaching lexicon. Or, how can this school open up branches one after another. Commercial consideration gets over quality teaching. Isn't it somewhat outrageous that a ninth grade student of such a reputed educational institution feels tempted to adopt such unfair means in examination hall? Pointing accusing fingers at her parentage would not do. Her teachers of Viqarunnisa are mostly to blame. They failed to monitor the girl's academic progress. Did the teachers alert Aritry's parents before on her lack of progress in the particular subject during the exam of which she was compelled to copy, if she really did? The principal refutes the allegation that she had insulted her parents and threatened to issue transfer certificate. If the rules and regulations of the school provide for such measures, the principal is well within her territory. But why does she now deny she did not threaten the girl and her parent with expulsion?
In her adolescence -- a period most crucial in terms of emotion, passion and sensitivity for teenagers like Aritry -- the girl certainly deserved better and caring handling. Rules and regulations are not all when it comes to treating teenagers in emotional crisis. The authority of the school should do some soul-searching now that its students have staged a demonstration and refused to sit for their examinations over the death of Aritry. Some guardians have complained that the educational institution no longer does justice to imparting of lessons in classes. It is the extensive coaching outside school that really helps students prepare for examinations.
Indeed, this is not Viqarunnisa's unique problem. Almost all the top grade schools in the country -- except perhaps the cadet colleges -- rely more on private tuition and coaching in batches than on class teaching. What they maintain, though, is regular home works, weekly tests and three monthly, six monthly and annual examinations. This means the schools are more concerned with preparing students for examinations. How they get prepared for such examinations is however not their concern. Parents and guardians -- some of them beyond their means -- have to spend lavishly in order to get their wards ready for achieving the top grade point average GPA -5 in school final or board examinations. The emphasis is more on squeezing students into a draconian academic machine so that they can be shaped into robot-like units who perform desirably in examinations. Their natural proclivity, creativity, wishes, brooding and introspection are least cared for and most often strangulated. The young generation is the most misunderstood and maltreated lot.
Aritry is not the only one to fall victim to a most inhuman system of education where students are subjected to as many as four public examinations between primary and higher secondary education. There is perhaps no such instance in the world's education system. The system refuses to accept individuality and is after bringing out its products, as does an industry, of same size and shape. This is brutal. Children do not learn but are oriented to achieve high scores in examinations from an early stage of their education. What nonsense!
The Viqarunnisa girl may be a direct casualty of the school's uncaring treatment but she is indirectly more so of a mindless schooling system this country is following. The GPA-5 turns out to be a mockery when in admission tests of the top public universities of the country only eight to 12 per cent admission-seekers come out successful. This is indication enough that something is terribly wrong with the education system at the school and college levels. A huge economy is involved with education and many examinations. Preparation of question papers, guide and made-easy books, commercial coaching and then lately developed model tests only demonstrate the teeth of the industry.
It will be a daunting task to take education on its rational track. As long as the powerful patricians wield power and influence, even educationists' sane and sober suggestions for reducing academic load from young learners will go unheeded. After all, the members of the elite and moneyed class do not have to subject their sons and daughters to the repressive education system. Mostly they send their wards to English medium schools and then to foreign universities. So plebeian parents like those of Aritry are not expected to be assuaged by any redeeming measure soon.