Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs), the Central government’s residential schools for meritorious rural children, have witnessed 49 campus suicides in just five year. Out of these 49 suicides from 2013 to 2017, half of them were Dalit and Adivasi and a majority of them were boys, show records obtained by The Indian Express under the RTI.
All, except seven, were suicides by hanging and the bodies were discovered either by classmates or members of the school staff.
Jawahar NavodayaVidyalayas, central government-run residential schools for talented rural children, offers free education with no extra expenses irrespective of the financial condition of candidates. The JNV, formed in 1985-86, is known for producing the best results in board examinations. It is spread all over India having one school in each district. Since 2012, these schools have consistently recorded a higher pass percentage of over 99% in Class 10 and over 95% in Class 12 which is far better than private schools and CBSE’s national average.
The schools begin from Class 6 and goes up to Class 12. In these schools, 75% of the seats are reserved for students from rural areas. Admissions are based on an open test. Competition for admission is high as less than 3% of children who appear for the test are admitted to the schools. There are 635 such schools across the country, run by the NavodayaVidyalaya Samiti, an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
According to the Indian Express, 41 out of 46 Vidyalayas are facing serious problems. These issues are reflected in the alarming suicide statistics in these schools. “For every one lakh student studying in these schools, almost six students committed suicide in 2017. This is slightly higher than the national suicide rate of a similar age group in 2015 — roughly 3 suicides per lakh population aged 6 to 17 years,” it says.
However, the condition of these schools is not as shiny as they may look from the outside.
Sixteen among the 49 students who commit suicide in the last five years were from the Scheduled Castes. SC and ST students together accounted for 25 suicides – more than half the total number.
Indian Express reported that close to 71% suicides were of boys, 43 suicides were by students in Class 9 and above out of the 49. The newspaper reports that the causes ranged from one-sided love and family problems to corporal punishment or humiliation by teachers, academic pressure, depression and a fight between friends. Suicides also peaked in the three months right after the summer vacations.
In November 2016, the NavodayaVidyalaya Samiti took note of the rising number of suicides.
“A child cannot take, all of a sudden, such an extreme step without showing some visible symptoms in advance. Vidyalaya administration failed to detect such symptoms. Though these symptoms were heard or seen by the students, they were taken lightly,” it said.