LESS THAN a year after an investigation by The Indian Express found that Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) had witnessed 49 student suicides from 2013 to 2017, including that of 25 Dalit and tribal students, the government has hired 1,176 full-time counsellors for these residential schools.
The Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS), an autonomous body under the HRD Ministry tasked with running the JNVs, has recruited 634 women and 542 men to work as counsellors in 635 schools.
“For schools that have less than 250 students, we have deputed one counsellor in each. For those with more than 250, we have deputed two (one man and one woman),” NVS commissioner Bishwajit Kumar Singh told The Indian Express.
All counsellors have either a Master’s degree in psychology or a post-graduate diploma/ Master’s in clinical psychology or a Master’s degree in child development/social work with a one-year diploma in counselling. They have been hired on a ten-month contract, which can be extended up to five years, at a salary of approximately Rs 45,000 per month.
Their scope of work includes providing personal and group counselling to students, diagnosing students with learning disability and helping new students adapt to the residential environment at these schools located in rural area.
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“Everyone has received their appointment letters. We have asked them to report to their respective schools by November 12,” Singh said.
In its investigative reports — the first was published on December 24, 2018 — The Indian Express also found that there were few trained counsellors on campus and that it was largely left to “overburdened” teachers to look after the welfare of their students.
Expressing “serious concerns” over these findings, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued a notice to the school education secretary in the HRD Ministry on January 1, seeking a response within six weeks. The matter was also raised in Parliament by Congress Rajya Sabha MP Viplove Thakur during the last Winter Session.
Besides, the HRD Ministry set up a task force in the last week of December, headed by psychiatrist Dr Jitendra Nagpal, to look into the circumstances leading to the suicides by students, and to suggest ways to arrest the trend. The government even approved a budget of Rs 56 crore to hire full-time counsellors in JNVs.