A city school, where a student was found dead last week allegedly with self-inflicted wounds, has reached out to parents to discuss with them “…issues concerning your child’s mental and physical well-being”.
A letter addressed to the parents says that the school vice-principal “is always present in the school to talk to you…”.
Though such a notice is construed as common practice, the letter stands out considering allegations that several Calcutta schools do not communicate with parents when it comes to dealing with a student’s mental and physical well-being.
After the Class X student was found dead on June 21, several guardians of the GD Birla Centre for Education had alleged that the school had always declined to interact with the guardians’ forum despite being approached repeatedly.
A parent of a Class IX student said this was the first such notice from the school.
“I don’t recall receiving such a notice earlier. I guess last week’s incident must have prompted the school to send the notice,” the mother of the Class IX student said.
The letter was circulated among the students of the senior section from classes VI-X on June 25.
The letter states that parents may meet the vice-principal on any working day between 1.30pm and 3pm or on Saturdays between 10am and 1pm with prior appointment.
The fact that mental health of students is posing a challenge became evident when more than 100 principals from schools across the city had attended the session on the issue last Saturday.
At the event, several principals approached psychologist Parveen Shaikh, who had stressed the need to develop a closer interaction among parents and schools on mental health.
Farishta Dastur Mukherji, a counsellor of Calcutta International School, said the letter recognised the fact that issues such as mental health could not be handled in isolation.
The West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Monday had written a letter to the GD Birla Centre for Education in which, among other things, they had advised interaction between guardians and the authorities on issues such as mental health and safety.
The chairperson of the child rights watchdog, Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborti, said: “The school seems to be opening up to the fact that they need to start communicating with the parents on the issue of mental health. I sincerely hope the move bears fruit.”
Repeated calls to principal Sharmila Nath went unanswered. She also did not reply to text messages.
Sanjay Bhattacharya, the spokesperson for the guardians’ forum, said they would soon write a letter to the school authorities to convene a formal meeting.
“It’s not that we are trying to find fault with the school. We are seeking to cooperate with the school in dealing with the problem that is of major concern for us,” said Bhattacharya.