October 17 was a usual day for Bhavana’s parents when their daughter headed out in casual attire to meet up with friends. She was expected to return home for dinner. Within a few hours, all went topsy turvy at her house in Mahalakshmi Layout, Bengaluru, when 14-year-old Bhavana (name changed) did not return till late in the evening.
Numerous panic calls to her friends and relatives gave no leads to the worried parents who sought police help to find the missing child. Desperate social media posts also elicited no response.
Finally, the girl was found in Mysuru days later, only to tell the family that she had left home to avoid her parents’ fury over poor performance in exams.
This was the second such incident in a month. A high school student from a private school in Bengaluru’s Central Business District did not return home after telling his parents that he was heading to the gym. Even as the parents shied away from sharing the student’s pictures on social media or lodging a police complaint, the run-away boy returned home and claimed that he did so out of exam related stress.
Nagasimha G Rao, director, Child Rights Trust, says that in the name of bridge courses and extra classes to make up for pandemic learning loss, children are being put under immense academic pressure by both parents and schools. “Post the covid lockdown, schools are putting pressure on children. Corporal punishment is on the rise as children are not paying attention in class. In the name of Kalika Chetarike programme (learning loss), government schools are putting extreme pressure on children to study while in private schools, we are receiving complaints about an irrational increase in homework, frequent tests, and assessments that children are failing to cope with,” says Rao.
Rao believes all stakeholders have a role to play in helping children in distress. “Schools are reeling under severe shortage of counsellors. Parents must walk the extra mile to communicate with and understand children’s fears and insecurities. Rather than expecting a revolution to happen, allow evolution. Schools must stop being in a rush to finish the syllabus,” he adds.
Dr Kannan Gireesh, Chennai based psychiatrist and founder of Live Life Education Private Limited concurs that children run away from home because they are unable to cope with the mental pressure put on them by parents and schools. “The two years of pandemic when they were in online classes was a complete sham. Exams were also a sham. Children copied or wrote open textbook exams. They have lost the habit of making notes or writing an exam. Unfortunately, the education system and boards are stuck in pre-pandemic days. Teachers are under tremendous pressure to get children to learn and do well in exams. Children now have the pressure to make up for learning loss as well as juggle school and coaching for competitive exams,” he says.
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