Uproar After Kolkata School Brands Student ‘Mentally Unsteady’
Image used for representational purposes.
Image used for representational purposes.(Photo: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

Uproar After Kolkata School Brands Student ‘Mentally Unsteady’

A 120-year-old Bengali-medium school in North Kolkata, built under the spiritual guidance of Swami Vivekananda and his American colleague Margaret E Noble, better known as Sister Nivedita, is in the eye of a storm after it publicly ‘humiliated’ a girl student who couldn’t secure a first division in the Madhyamik examination, the results of which were declared on 6 June.

Students of Ramakrishna Sarada Mission Sister Nibedita Girl’s School, which runs from its original site in Baghbazar in North Kolkata, are up in arms against the school authorities after they put up a notice, highlighting the academic achievements of 104 students, naming a few who had outstanding results.

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However, one student, who could not secure first division was described as:

Suffering from severe depression, unsteady mental condition due to adverse condition at home. She is under the treatment of a psychologist. She has been given permission by the school authority to appear in the MP (Madhyamik Pariksha) 2018 as advice (sic) by the psychologist and on frequent request of her guardians. She has got only 1 mark less than 60 percent.
An excerpt from the notice posted inside the school

A copy of the notice is in the possession of The Quint.

The circular issued by the school.
The circular issued by the school.
(Photo: Chandan Nandy)

Former Students Slam School’s Behaviour

Such shaming, if not naming, is unprecedented in the annals of the school, which began “tentative” operations on 13 November, 1898, before finally becoming a regular institution in 1902.

The batchmates of the girl in question, as other past alumni, have reacted on social media with undisguised fury at the manner in which the school has “denigrated” the girl.

Former students have expressed their outrage and “sadness” at the manner in which the school, which was established after Swami Vivekananda, “realised” that the “rejuvenation of India was not possible without the proper education of her women”.

Several past and present students have lashed out at the “onuchit/onyay byabohar (unjustified/unpardonable behaviour)” of the school authorities.

In a post on Facebook, one former Ramakrishna Sarada Mission Sister Nibedita Girl’s School student has alleged that the institution has had a history of such reprehensible behaviour, but the latest incident “surpasses” every other shaming incident of the past.

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Another former student reacted, saying:

“Nothing better can be expected from them (school authorities). Those who wrote 104+1 (+1 being the student who could not secure a first division) in the notice, they themselves need psychiatric treatment… so that they could be returned to their normal senses.”

Fearing School’s Clout, Local Media Fails to Report Incident

While most newspapers and TV news channels in Kolkata are aware of the incident, none have gone ahead to write the story involving the school authorities’ “despicable behaviour and attitude.”

One senior journalist working for a top Bengali newspaper said that the school’s clout, primarily because it is one of several institutions that is run by the Rama Krishna Mission, is “tremendous”.

The institution’s website says that “the school, which was branch centre of the Ramakrishna Mission since 1918, was transferred on 9 August 1963 to the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission, Dakshineswar, and henceforward has been known as the branch centre of that organisation.

“The management of the school is entrusted to a Managing Committee appointed by the Governing Body of the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission.”

While the school claims that in the 2017 Madhyamik Examination, all 109 candidates secured First Division, the latest notice says that the total number of students who appeared for the examination in 2018 was “104+1”. Of these, 98 students secured “Star Marks”. Two girls secured 668 (“almost 95 percent”) each, while 40 others obtained “90 percent marks & above (AA)”.

In an impassioned post on Facebook, a former student wrote:

When globally so much attention is being given to psychiatric and mental health, what kind of mindset is this? Did they not think even once that by writing such a thing in a public notice, they would cause more harm to the girl in question and that her mental state could deteriorate?

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“Is the school’s responsibility limited to get her mark? Should it not be the school’s duty to build her life? To make her dream of a bright future?” the former student adds in the Facebook post.

School Denies Notice, But Maintains That One Students Was “ill”

The school principal, Satyabratapranji Mataji, was said to have been busy when The Quint tried to contact her. However, another Mataji, who refused to identify herself over the phone, said that a copy of “a notice” was doing the rounds of WhatsApp groups.

She said that “had the notice been issued by the school, it would have had the institution’s logo”. But the Mataji avoided replying to the question why a notice issued in 2017 (which is displayed on the school’s website) did not have any logo.

The Mataji admitted that one of the girls who appeared for the Madhyamik Examination was indeed “asushtho” (ill), though “she and her guardians have in touch with the school authorities”.

She said that “a new notice would be put up on the school notice board”. Several current pupils have vouched for the authenticity of the notice in question, though they suspect that it was removed when it was denounced by the students.

(Chandan Nandy is a senior journalist who tracks politics, culture, foreign affairs. He tweets @NandyGram. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)

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