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Friday, February 11, 2011

Help just a phone call away Hindustan Times Feb 11th 2011

Help just a phone call away
Bhavya Dore and Hari Seshasayee,Hindustan Times
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Mumbai, February 11, 2011
First Published: 01:35 IST(11/2/2011)
Last Updated: 01:36 IST(11/2/2011)
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Two years ago, when she was one of the principals assigned to man the CBSE helpline, Avnita Bir got a call from a distressed Class 10 CBSE student. He said he had not attempted questions worth 15 marks in his English exam and that this was affecting his preparation for the next few papers. He wanted
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to study engineering and was worried he wouldn’t make it to one of Kota’s several residential coaching institutes.

“All he needed was some reassurance, so I told him to study 15% extra for each of his next papers and to try and get 15 marks extra in the remaining exams,” said Avnita Bir, principal of RN Podar School, Santacruz.

Two weeks ago the boy called Bir again. He had made it to Kota and is now preparing to give his Class 12 exam.

“He reminded me of how he had called me two years ago and how he had come a long way since then, and that he was grateful for that one call he made to me,” said Bir.

“It was so touching.”

This year, the 24-hour helpline operated by the CBSE board became functional on February 1 and gets up to 200 a day.

“While a majority of calls pertain to examination related queries, around 80 per day are stress related, which are transferred to school principals, psychologists and trained counsellors,” said Rama Sharma, CBSE board’s public relations officer.

The state board helpline for SSC and HSC students will become operational on February 25.

“Due to the rule that children cannot be detained till the Class 8, children can feel stressed with the sudden pressure of board exams when they enter Class 9. Helplines can help address subject doubts and stress issues,” said Swarna Venkat, former principal of Srimati MD Bhatia High School, Ghatkopar.

Parents and students have also turned to helplines such as Aasra, Childline and the Vandrevala Foundation.

“There is a surge in calls just before and after the board exams and once the results are announced,” said Johnson Thomas, director of Aasra, which runs a 24-hour helpline for crisis intervention.

“I advise parents not to evaluate their children only on their marks,” said Dr Henal Shah, president of the Bombay Psychiatric Society.

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