The death of four female students from a government school in Vellore has left the entire state shocked. The girls, who all belong to Class 11, were found dead in a well near the Panapakkam village on Friday and allegedly committed suicide after being admonished by their teacher.
According to preliminary investigations, the students identified as Deepa, Sankari, Monisha and Revathi were scolded by their teacher along with 11 other students. They were told to bring their parents to school on Friday to discuss their conduct.
"We spoke to school teachers and they told us that they just gave the students advice because they were undisciplined. It had nothing to do with their academic performance," says Pagalavan, the Vellore Superintendent of Police. "They were apparently disturbing classes, not being attentive and teasing teachers. This was the problem," he adds.
The Revenue District Officer, Chief Education Officer and crime department are conducting inquiries into the case and are expected to submit a report shortly.
"The reason for their action seems quite difficult to digest. Suicide at that age requires a great amount of courage and why would these four decide to take that extreme step? asks the SP. The seven others who were chastised, according to the police, presented apology letters to the teacher. "Only a thorough inquiry into the matter can help. This incident however shows that it is crucial to have counsellors in schools," he adds.
Is counselling the solution?
Mental health experts who spoke to TNM, however, state that the matter is not that simple.
"Counsellors who deal with children have to be specially trained. In addition to this, they have to be well paid and the community itself should be open to the concept," says child psychiatrist Jayanthini, who is based in Bengaluru.
She adds that there are '5 As' that need to be looked at here - awareness, acceptance, assessment, availability and affordability.
"These conditions have to all be fulfilled in order for counselling to be made effective. If a child is mocked by her peers for seeks counselling, it will only be detrimental," she adds.
Then what is the solution?
"Teachers and parents have to take the first step and show acceptance by visiting counsellors themselves. The problem with children these days is that their emotional quotient is low and they do not know how to deal with a build-up of emotions. This is where they need guidance and it will take a joint effort to help them," she adds.