A teenage girl committed suicide in her hostel room in a private college in Tiruchy this week, allegedly because she found it very difficult to follow English in her classroom lectures. The girl, who passed out from a Hindi-medium school in Jharkhand, had come to study in the Tiruchy college along with four other girls after winning a scholarship.
She underperformed in her recent exams, which, the police think, could have been the trigger for the suicide. Among the five girls, three had dropped out of college as they found it difficult to keep up with the classes. This comes close on the heels of a girl committing suicide in IIT-Madras, allegedly due to harassment by faculty. While this is gaining attention, the suicide by the student from Jharkhand may go unnoticed.
Lack of proficiency in English is a major confidence shaker for a majority of students coming from regional language backgrounds. Many schools tie up with colleges across the country and award scholarships to meritorious students to help them pursue higher education. This scenario is as complex as the situation children from economically weaker sections face after their admission to private schools as per the Right to Education Act, which prescribes a 25% quota for them. The psychological barrier the child may have to face in a private school classroom is not often talked about. While the RTE is an important clause that gives equal opportunity to all kids, there could be psychological trauma associated when such children interact with their affluent classmates.
The wall of privilege that divides English and regional languages is tough to scale. Before awarding scholarships, it will be good if the schools organise a course on English and help students overcome this disadvantage. The colleges must be prepared to lend support to such students. Apart from this, a strong team of counsellors needs to be made an integral part of a college to help students with other possible psychological issues as many are likely away from home for the first time.