Kerala Samajam Model School is one of the 45 city cradles to have a stress-buster club. Picture by Bhola Prasad
You may remember the happy-go-lucky Prem as the president of Happy Club in the Ranbir-Katrina romcom Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009). Prem, played by Ranbir Kapoor, had set simple rules for the club — be happy, make others happy, unite couples.
The Happiness Club in Jamshedpur is not the stuff Bollywood romances are made of. It is a decision that The Association of Jharkhand Unaided Private Educational Institutions, which monitors around 45 private schools of Jamshedpur, has come up with to combat student suicides.
The meeting of the association was held in February, a crucial month for students gearing up for their ICSE, ISC, CBSE and JAC board exams, both at secondary and plus two levels. For plus two students in science streams, there is also the mounting pressure of cracking engineering or medical boards.
For many, the failure to “make it” becomes a symbol of a failed life.
This year, for instance, on February 27, Isha Virdi, a 17-year-old student of Carmel Junior College, Jamshedpur, hanged herself at her Sonari West Layout home, hours before she was to appear for ICSE maths paper. In an industrial city, faring well or poorly in maths becomes a test of how smart one is. Isha, a tolerably good student, could not take the pressure.
The Happiness Club — one each for a school — will try to save other Ishas. Some parents who have lost their wards have also supported this venture.
Narbheram Hansraj English School, Bistupur, one of the best-known cradles of the city, is among the first to set up its own Happiness Club.
“Student suicide is an acute manifestation of stress and despair. It’s a very sensitive issue,” said Paromita Roychoudhury, Narbheram principal.
She added that they were trying out a mix of student and teacher counsellors to reach out to troubled teens with the right balance of empathy and maturity.
“We have already conducted a test to screen students who will double up as counsellors. There are two teacher moderators who will guide student counsellors. The main aim is to let students speak their heart out before someone they trust. We are trying our best to understand adolescent problems,” she added.
Other city schools also seem to have worked out a similar format of Happiness Clubs on campus.
Depressed students will share their problems to a buddy group, basically senior students. The concept is to only listen to victims of stress and depression — normally introverts who don’t have many friends — and help them feel lighter.
Weak students, social misfits and habitually silent students are often treated as “losers” in school. Happiness Club will try to send the message that everyone is unique and full of potential.
A student weak in maths, for instance, can be great in art or games.
If required, counsellors from senior classes will talk to parents. Teachers, the moderators of the club, will act as guides in serious cases.
“There are students with no outlet for stress. That’s where Happiness Club comes in. Mentally sorted seniors will listen to juniors beyond school hours. Our whole module is yet to be chalked out but we are serious about starting by April,” said Nandini Shukla, principal, Kerala Samajam Model School (KSMS).