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The Financial Express

Why do varsity students take their own lives?


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Quite a few students of different universities have allegedly committed suicides in recent times. The last one to have done so is a student of civil engineering (3rd year) of Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology (DUET), Gazipur. Four students ---three of them from Mass Communication & Journalism of three different universities---took their lives in the last week of September alone. One of these students was from the department of Mass Communication and Journalism of the University of Dhaka. He had to his credit very good results and had been preparing for the Bangladesh Civil Service examination held on Friday last before taking his own life in a mess he shared with others at Chankharpul.

All the universities where these deceased students were studying or passed out from are public universities and not the run of the mill get admission to such highest seats of learning. They may not be equally talented but certainly all of them had to qualify the benchmark set for entry into those public universities. It is not that varsity students did not end their lives out of frustration in the past but such cases were very rare. But this year the incidence is higher than any time before. Not only have students pursuing higher studies committed suicide but college students and even school students followed suit. This is a treacherous time no one can indeed repose confidence in. A submicroscopic pathogen called coronavirus is responsible for this.

Individuals, families and societies have been devastated by its rampage. In this country, students coming from rural areas face overwhelming odds in pursuing their higher studies. Poor parents of many of them cannot bear the expenses of their sons' and daughters' education at universities. It is not a Western society where dish washing or serving customers at restaurants on hourly basis helps earn enough for educational expenses. Only a rare few do part-time jobs here but most of them survive on private tuition.

During the pandemic when people's movement was severely restricted, these varsity students like others had to leave the campus and even the cities or towns where their universities are located. Many of these students not only managed their own expenses from private tuition but also financially helped their families in villages. Unemployed and their main source of income drying up, some of them returned to Dhaka or where their varsities are located in the hope that they would somehow get an opportunity for an income to keep their bodies and souls together. Because of the closure of their universities, they were also running behind their academic schedules. Many would have completed their studies and managed a job if the pandemic did not disrupt the academic routine.

Quite naturally, the psychological pressure proved too much for a few. When it became unbearable, they took the ultimate decision to bring an end to their lives. A suicide note written by one reads, "A day seems to be as long as a year, can't carry on". Highly sensitive as young people of such an age are, they did not have in the words of poet Jibananda a wife lying beside, let alone a child. But still the irresistibly tempting call came to which they could not help responding. Lives of possibilities have thus gone extinguished without fulfilling their promises and realising their dreams. They thought their dreams have been shattered once and for all.

People of different levels have received stimulus packages. No one even think of considering these most disadvantaged students, who somehow fended for themselves during normal times, for financial help. But they were least prepared for such a long---as long as one and a half years --- lay-off. Neither did their educational institutions or alma mater take up their case with the education ministry or any other ministry for such supports. In advanced countries, there is an arrangement for education loans for students, which can be repaid after taking a job. This was an emergency and such an arrangement could be made for the students facing such pressing needs.

There is still time for introduction of such a system of support. Many students are in a dire need of this. The universities should approach the government with a proposal for this and the government is likely to respond positively. A support system like this may still save some more promising lives.    

 

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