Girl (12) forced to beg over bad grades

Thu, Mar 29, 2012, 01:00

POLICE IN the southern Indian city of Mysore yesterday arrested a relatively well-off man for forcing his 12-year-old daughter to beg on the city’s streets as punishment for getting poor school grades.

“I just wanted her to realise how tough life is without proper education,” said Prakash, who was arrested under the Juvenile Act and released on bail. He told deputy police commissioner Basavaraj Malagatti that he had not physically punished his daughter for not doing well in school but he wanted to teach her a lesson. The girl has been placed in a government child-welfare centre to help her overcome the experience.

The incident came to light after passersby on a busy Mysore street asked the well-groomed, well-dressed schoolgirl why she was begging. She pointed to her father sitting watching in a car. An angry crowd forced him out of the card and herded him to a police station.

Though extreme, the incident highlights the intense pressure on Indian school and college students to obtain good grades.

Hundreds of students who are under exam pressure are thought to take their own lives each year. While no official figures are available, newspapers regularly report on the phenomenon. A study by the Week magazine some years ago estimated that about 4,000 Indian students die by suicide each year, but scores of cases go unreported. Many take their own lives after exam results are announced – usually around May each year.

The pressure is intensified for those from poorer sections of society, who have limited access to the few opportunities that exist.

Parental displeasure over their children’s poor performance is also thought to contribute to the suicide rate. But parents are responding to an elitist, intensely competitive system that weeds out millions of children each year, with only 7 per cent making it to 12th grade (the equivalent of sixth year in Irish schools) and getting the chance to go on to college.