BENGALURU: Fifteen-year-old Shivarama (name changed), a Class 10 student, went missing from his house in Rajajinagar in the city on Tuesday.
Police suspect that examination stress led Shivarama to leave the house. Following his disapperarance, a post on a social networking website seeking help to trace him has gone viral.
Experts working with runaway children say that many such cases are reported during examination time every year.
Shivarama’s cousin said he is good at academics. “I was with him till 7.30pm, helping him with English. Every day he goes out for a walk to relax. On Tuesday too, he went out for a walk but did not return. He missed his exam on Thursday. We learnt that he was acting aloof for the past three months. He also did not attend the farewell party at his school because of exam stress. There is no pressure from his parents or at school. He used to set a target every month. If he did not meet them, he would become restless,” said the cousin.
According to Ramaswamy, coordinator of Bosco Mane, an NGO that works with children, hundreds of children run away from their homes and land up in Bengaluru. They do this for various reasons, including domestic violence. However, between January and April, out of every 10 children, four to five run away due to exam related stress.
Ramaswamy added that on an average they get 180 to 200 children every month at the NGO’s booths in City Railway station and KSRTC bus station. “At least three per cent of them run away due to academic stress. The numbers have reduced compared to previous years because of awareness programes, but the problem still exists,” he added.
Ramaswamy said many children tend to run away over fear of being scolded by parents for scoring less in model exams. In some cases, children leave the house after writing exams fearing that will score less.
A senior staff of a child helpline in Police Commissioner’s office in Bengaluru told Express that they get several calls from students and parents especially during exams where they speak about stress and fear. “We have a provision to counsel them. In extreme cases, we send a counsellor to houses,” the staff member said.
Vasudeva Sharma, director of Child Rights Trust, said children running away during the time of exams is ‘universal’. Most chidlren who run away are in high schools.
“Children living in hostels are put under pressure when teachers or wardens tell them that they will be removed from the hostel if they do not pass the exams. At schools, it’s a racket. Students who get low marks are failed in previous classes, so that schools can claim 100 per cent results in SSLC. This is used to attract parents and students for admissions later. Some who can’t cope with academic pressure tend to run away,” he said.