The National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday issued a notice to the School Education secretary in the HRD Ministry seeking the department’s response on the reported suicides in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas within six weeks. Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas have seen close to 50 suicides by students on campus in just five years, data furnished under an RTI application filed by The Indian Express has revealed.
As per the data, out of the 49 suicides from 2013 to 2017, half were by Dalit and tribal students, and a majority of them were boys. All, except seven, were suicides by hanging, and the bodies were discovered either by members of the school staff or classmates.
The investigation also revealed that there are no trained counsellors and teachers are overburdened to look after the welfare of students.
NHRC headed by former Chief Justice of India H L Dattu, directed the ministry to submit its response on three aspects: whether trained counsellors are available on campus; whether students have access to emergency assistance through counselling and a suicide hotline service; and if there is dedicated staff to ensure students are not left alone in their rooms. The ministry has six weeks to file its response.
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However, as per the data obtained by The Indian Express, 41 out of 46 JNVs are facing a serious challenge. There are currently 635 JNVs with 2.8 lakh students. In March 2017, a total of 2.53 lakh students in the age group of nine to 19 were enrolled across roughly 600 JNVs and the same year the number of suicides touched 14. Therefore, the suicide rate, per population of 1,00,000, at JNVs for 2017 works out to 5.5.
Interestingly, suicides peak in the three months during the examination season, that is, January, February and March and the two-month-long summer break that ends in July.
In 2016, the NVS shot off an 11-page circular, listing out ways to spot suicidal tendencies and prevent suicides on campus. The circular states that a JNV cannot escape responsibility if the suicide takes place within the school premises.