Though the school authorities admitted that 12-year-old Ajay Devnath appeared to be depressed, the boy did not get any counselling. Although a professional counsellor visits the SCD Barfiwala School thrice a week, Devnath’s depression was ignored.
His teachers say the boy was struggling to cope with his academics and family problems. “School teachers themselves recommend students to the counsellors, but its hard to keep tab on each and every student when we have over 50 students in one class. Even if he was depressed, I was not able to notice,” Prachi Pimple, his class teacher.
Rupa Roy, principal of Balmohan Vidya Mandir, said the faulty system depends only on teachers to recommend students to counsellors. Teachers need to be trained to identify signs of depression among students. “Most schools do not have full-time counsellors. Every school should have an in-house counselling centre and students should be given freedom approach the counsellors directly. Many times students are afraid to speak in front of teachers. Schools can adopt systems such as ‘anonymous letters’ and fellow classmates can also be allowed to report if they find their friend is depressed,” she said.
Teachers must stop shirking responsibility, citing poor student-teacher ratio, says Rekha Vijayakar, director of Guru Harikrishan High School, Santa Cruz. “Teachers need to be more alert and immediately refer them to counsellors if they see behaviour change in students,” she said.