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How Saira Sirohi's suicide reveals the harsh reality of India's education system

Saira's family members state that she was threatened to be rusticated, if she didn't clear her exam papers.

Saira’s suicide shook India’s swimming fraternity 

Budding Indian swimmer Saira Sirohi's suicide shook the very foundation of the country. A 16-year old Olympic aspirant, with more than 110 national medals across various age categories to her name, Saira was on the cusp of international glory. However, the reason for her death remained a mystery, with neither the police or parents coming forward to release an official statement.

Four days since the incident occurred, her parents have come on record to reveal the reason behind the suicide. Training to represent India at the 2020 Olympics, Saira shocked the swimming fraternity last month by swimming for 15 hours non stop and covering a total distance of 38 kilometres.

Family members close to Saira told Sportskeeda that there was serious pressure from her school to excel in her academics. Due to the 2015 National Aquatics Championship, Saira had missed a few half yearly papers.

Her Coach Raju Chaudhary said, “For the past couple of weeks, Saira was refusing to come for training, I wanted to talk to her father about it but never got the time. The school told her that if she would fail even in another paper, she would be expelled from the school. She was a bit tentative about that and was ready to forgo her swimming for that. That is something I've never seen Saira do. She had appeared for her back papers and I think had one more to go. However, there was nothing extreme about her behaviour.”

Saira's father Jaideep, retired from his job with the Uttar Pradesh Police to help fuel her dream was still shocked. He said, “At around 2 pm, my younger daughter started shouting vehemently. In the begining, I couldn't hear anything, but after two minutes I realised and rushed towards the room. I pushed the door, thought it was bolted from inside. But it wasn't, when I entered I saw her hanging from the door. I brought her down and I was realised immediately what had happened”

He added, “She had shown no signs of any distress, in fact she told me that she would study for a few hours and go for sleep.”Jaideep went onto add that there was a lot of pressure from Saira to perform from school. He said, “She missed a few exams during her championship, and the school made it clear that she has to pass her exams, if she didn't, she would be rusticated.”

Prinicipal of the Ghaziabad School, Jyoti Singh denied any such allegations. She said, “She used to regularly miss exams, but she had the choice to take them at any point she wanted. A teacher was always there to help her. We knew how much she loved swimming and we wanted to be a part of her journey.”

The 2015 CBSE school swimming champion is no more, but her legacy will be etched onto history books. Her Coach added, “It was a privilege to train such a dedicated athlete, I assure you Olympic participation would have been a piece of cake for her. She also broke the CBSE National record recently.”

Saira's suicide is a failure for India's education system, which often generalises the notion of growth to academic success. It's time we contemplate whether a 'unit test' can be rated higher than someone's will to exceed in life.  

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