Rinkesh Yadav was distraught after making the journey from his Madhya Pradesh village to the town of Datia to check his high school result: He had failed.
Yadav, 16, walked to the railway tracks and threw himself before a train, one of five teenagers who committed suicide since May 9 when results for the Madhya Pradesh high school exams were announced.
Another student is in critical condition after trying to hang himself.
The reason for this spate of suicides appears obvious: Only 35.33 per cent of the student body passed. Put another way, 4.26 lakh of 6.59 lakh students who took the examinations failed.
The results and the news of the suicides have sparked statewide outrage.
School education minister Archana Chitnis blamed said she was “shocked” and blamed what she called “alarming” results on teachers being pulled out of their classes to work as polling staff in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, the first held in November-December last year and the second in April.
“Teachers engaged in election work could not complete the syllabus on time; hence, students suffered,” she said, admitting that the state government had failed to adhere to the Supreme Court directive on not engaging schoolteachers for poll-related work. “My department will ensure that in future, teachers are kept off election duties.”
Chitnis announced a committee to investigate the results.
“The entire system is responsible for the debacle," she said. "I will review the results on May 24 based on reports from district level committees and those found guilty will be severely punished.”
The education department has already identified more than 100 principals who will be punished for the poor results of their schools.
Politicians blamed the state government.
“Power cuts and ill-equipped teaching staff were the main reasons for the disastrous results,” said state assembly opposition leader Jamuna Devi.
Admitting this charge, Snehlata Shrivastava, principal secretary, school education, said the failure of the government to fill vacancies and a change in the syllabus were partially responsible for the poor results.