The pursuit of excellence has never been a cakewalk and teenage students especially those preparing for their examinations, often struggle to cope with untold pressures from their peers, their teachers and even their parents. As expectations are incredibly high, not all students can survive the agony of failure or not making the grade to, say, qualify for admission to a professional college. Such despair usually drives students to suicide.
In recent weeks several such tragedies have taken place in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. While this surge in the incidence of student suicides is deeply disturbing it is reflective of a malaise affecting our whole society and our national obsession with higher grades at the expense of actual learning — the real purpose of education. If that is indeed leading to a rise in the suicide rate of pre-college and college-level students then it is a cause for alarm.
This does not mean we encourage students to abandon the goal of excellence. Instead we ought to teach students clearly how to shift their focus from academic brilliance to greater understanding and purposeful learning. Occasionally educators and parents must permit them to fail and encourage them to go back to the drawing board. Acceptance of failure and shortcomings would be refreshing and perhaps save lives of many vulnerable students. In many instances all that is required is finding enough resiliency factors to ward off potential risks that breed suicidal tendencies.
Students thought to be at risk must be exposed to family, peer and friend support groups to help them work out solutions to the problem. These support groups can help boost a vulnerable student’s self-esteem. School and community have a huge role to play as they can promote healthy living and equip students with adaptive coping skills and build problem-solving abilities. Cultural and religious activities can be useful as well. In addition, there must be proper access to medical and mental health resources. Once vulnerable persons find a sense of purpose, they can also discover a zest for life.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2018.
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