Nafisa Nawaz Ethika, a 10th grader of Rajuk Uttara Model College, committed suicide by jumping of the fifth floor staircase of her own college yesterday after she was accused of manipulating her marks in the mark sheet of her exams, students say. The incident took place during the General Maths class when teacher Rezwanur Rahman was distributing the copies of recently concluded Pre-Test exams. Ethika secured 39 marks out of 100 and failed by a margin of one. Allegedly, she increased her marks to 69 in the mark sheet and was caught by the teacher who threatened to send her to the Principal and give her TC (Transfer Certificate) for her offence. While she was being escorted to the Principal’s Office, the girl jumped of the staircase and committed suicide. Authorities rushed her to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) where the doctors pronounced her dead around 6 PM local time after being under intensive care for 7 hours.
The next day, Prothom Alo reported that the student slipped on the staircase and fell to her death. But according to the students of the institution, who wish to remain nameless due to the fear of retribution from the institution’s authority, it was a suicide, not an accident, and many blame the college for forcing her to take her life. The fact that the college is trying to hide the sorry incident of the suicide already shows that they care more about their image than the truth about he life of a student. But Rajuk students claim that the blame for the death falls even more on the administration that has bred a culture of fear in the campus.
The school authorities have been asking the students to say that the girl slipped and fell in an attempt to create a false narrative about the incident. Moreover, they have asked several students who posted on social media about this to remove their posts. Most of the students have taken down their posts due to fear of repercussions like monetary fines or suspension from the college. The school has a reputation for suppressing students on social media. Two years ago, a student was removed from his post of prefectship because he voiced his concerns about the school’s authority on social media. In another incident when a parent of a student took to social media to complain about the culture of fining students for any and every discipline breach he was asked to come down to the school and talk to the authority. Needless to say, his facebook post was no longer there. This is what one of the students had to say :
This is not the first time a student of Rajuk has attempted suicide. 2 years ago, another girl attempted to take her life after she was handed a Transfer Certificate because she was filmed while being proposed by her boyfriend. Let us take a step back and look at how Rajuk as an institution is governed. This is a text message that was sent to all the students the night before the exam:
Notice for Students: If any student fails in any exam, s/he will not be promoted to the next class as per the decision of the academic council. So, prepare yourself in the best possible way.
Here you have an institution that instills a morbid image of failure in the impressionable minds of its young students. Failing in an exam is the worst that you can do as a person, it’s a nadir, it’s a crime. No wonder she was coerced into tampering with her grades to pass which eventually lead to her suicide. However, it would be unwise to put the blame squarely on Rajuk. The society and the educational system of our country have contributed to the formation of a pernicious mindset that judges an individual’s worth by his/her grades. We live in a country where you would rather take leaked question papers to get GPA 5 in board exams than test your knowledge through them. Your knowledge, your skills and your humanity takes a backseat to your grades. Missing GPA 5 in board exams and failing in school exams are not less a crime than a felony.
After the new Principal Brigadier General Kazi Showkat Alam took over in late 2017, the institution has seen major reforms in terms of its rules and regulations. The students are slapped with exorbitant fines for minor offences like bunking classes, forgetting to bring books, forgetting lab aprons, and being late to school among many other things. To exacerbate it, the school sends letters to the guardians when the student receives fines. Several other draconian laws have been put in order and the adjutants have become much stricter. Mandatory hour-long assemblies under the scorching summer heat have seen several students faint due to dehydration. Moreover, the students are not allowed to gather in the hallways or the corridors and they are not allowed to purchase anything from the school canteen during class time.
Ethika was a student of class 10 and she was aspiring to sit for the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam in a few months time. She recently sat for the preparatory test that is required of every student before they finally sit for the 10th board exams. Ethika was a very good student and she consistently ranked in the top 10 of her class. Unfortunately, on this occasion, she could not live up to her expectations. She knew that failing in her exams would cost her dearly because the school would force her to drop a year and would not allow her to sit for SSC exams with her peers. She knew that she could not face the wrath of her parents, the ridicule from her peers and the jeers from her teachers if she dropped a year. She was stuck in a dichotomy, to swallow the bitter pill and drop a year or to tamper with her marks in the mark sheet. She chose the latter. However, she did not get away with it. The teacher suspected the tampering and threatened her that she would be sent to the Principal’s office. He warned her that she would be given a Transfer Certificate after being sent to the Principal.
Most of us only know that Rajuk Uttara Model College is the best educational institute in the country due to its impeccable results and enviable success in board examinations. If we all were to know the process through which it got here, we would all shudder in fear.
| The Authors are students of Rajuk Uttara Model College. They wish to remain anonymous|