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‘Blue Whale’ in Himachal – Reminder why trained counselors in schools has become a necessity now

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blue whale game in Himachal

The appearance of a case related to controversial Blue Whale game in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh has sounded the alarmed among the parents. A 12-years-old boy was luckily rescued after his parents discovered signs of self-mutilation on his hand.

So far, Himachal Watcher refrained from covering the Blue Whale Phenomenon as we felt bound by the ethics of reporting news relating to suicide. The news channels and dailies did what exactly the creator of this concept wanted from them – creating more curiosity in vulnerable subjects through sensational coverage. Numerous stories were published using some sensational images showing a whale drenched in blood or something like that.

From our sources, we were told that schools are implementing the advisory in a haphazard manner which is doing nothing else but to create more curiosity among children, especially teens.

Until now, the awareness about mental health and relevance of trained counselors were entirely missing from schools as a necessity to deal with complex teenage issues. For instance, not many of us are aware that the World Suicide Prevention Day 2017 is observed on September 10 every year to create necessary awareness. There is a reason why the world needed to dedicate a special day to attend to the issue. It’s preventable.

So, we feel obliged to take part in the debate to introduce some more aspects.

First of all, it is not exactly a game that can be downloaded and installed in devices. Bullying and pressurizing participants to complete the task are major parts of this concept. The participants receive a link through one of the social media. As suggested by some tech-forums, the participants are asked to accept a cookie that allows the curator to access entire data of the device being used by the participant.

Secondly, Blue Whale is not the only name by which this concept has spread to the social media. The same concept is being adapted under different names. There could be a number of such groups. 

After several incidents in some parts of India, the appearance of a case related to controversial Blue Whale game in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh has sounded the alarmed among the parents. A 12-years-old boy was luckily rescued after his parents discovered signs of self-mutilation on his hand.

The boy said he wanted to quit the game but he could not. He received threats from the curator or the admin. The boy said the curator warned him that if he doesn’t accomplish the tasks assigned, his parents or family members would be harmed.

The fear was instilled so strongly in the victim child that he did not dare to speak to his parents.

The disclosure by the rescued boy that more of his friends are hooked to this lethal challenge has sent waves of panic among parents. At the same time, media reporting is fueling curiosity in masses. The advisories issued to children and their parents by the police and the schools are also doing the same.

People, government, and web experts are feeling helpless against this psychological trap of the ‘deep web’. The psychologists are suggesting the curators does not pick up its prey randomly, but from a targeted section that is more vulnerable. Apart from access to the digital world, the mental health of teens requires close attention here.

Now, the government of India is issuing advisories in the schools asking them to create awareness against the suicidal game. The government has connected to the social media sites asking them to act and take preventive measures. In fact, social media sites are working on it as the number of cases reported is now in three figures.

However, the parents and schools are required to pay more attention to the psychology behind the concept that is believed to have originated from Russia. A Russian man was reportedly convicted for inventing the concept or spreading it to suicide groups. Recently, another curator, a Russian girl, was reportedly arrested. 

Psychology behind the concept

It sounds stupid and unbelievable that a person could convince or control someone through a psychological manipulation or through threats to complete abnormal tasks and end his/her life by the time the series of task reaches its final stage. In India, psychology has not received the amount of attention it deserves in the society. Even most costly or prestigious schools do not have a regular counselor, which supports the aforesaid statement.

Majority of experts in the field of psychology suggest not all children or teens are vulnerable to this threat. The teenage period is marked by high-risk taking behavior. The experts also link it with poor mental health, depression, and pre-existing tendencies towards self-destruction or inclination to harm one’s own self. Teens with depression, low-esteem, identity conflicts, emotional breakups, and those with traumatic experiences including child abuse are more prone to fall victim to this game, say experts.

Sadly, schools are not providing professional counselors, who could prove much better in observing these indicators in a child during school hours as well as creating awareness among other teachers and parents. There is a huge difference between the role of a teacher and that of a trained, skilled psychologist.

Children, especially teens go through tremendous behavioral changes during teenage- a natural process. Teenagers strive to establish their individual identity in their friend circle. They tend to assess their importance in their circle. Introverts and those with low-esteem or low level of achievements often face an identity crisis

, said Ranjana Sharma, a scholar pursuing her research related to the “Quality of Life” from Department of Himachal Pradesh University.

It sounds impractical for teachers to attend to each individual student in their class or identify such cases. Moreover, we must accept that the new generation gets hooked to electronic devices like mobiles and the Internet from a tender age. Their exposure and access to the world are far greater than the previous generation,

she said adding,

This exposure requires to be channelized through proper guidance as it is impractical to put a complete check on it.

Nowadays, the teens are more tech-savvy than their parents, which makes it difficult for parents to monitor what exactly their children doing on their smartphones and laptops, she added. 

The description of the Blue Whale concept, methods, and design of tasks suggest enhancing already existing tendencies by creating an illusion that someone is being part of something daring. The participants are first conditioned to follow an abnormal routine like waking up at odd hours (between 2 AM to 4 AM), watching depressing videos sent by the curator, climbing up a building, to stand on the edge of the roof, or listen to gloomy music tracks at a particular time.

A survivor said he was asked to go to the graveyard at 2 PM and send a selfie as evidence that task was completed. Self-inflicted injuries are given a form of an act of punishing oneself, suggest psychologists.

The best prevention here appears to be giving more time to your children, at least enough to observe changes in their behavior, if any. The advisories are asking parents to reach a counselor if they observe symptoms like isolation, withdrawal from routine activities, and a decrease in the time that their children used to spend with them or the appetite.  

If a child is already an introvert, then it must be ensured that he gets more time from parents to express his emotions. A friendly relationship would help bridge the communication gap between the teens and their parents.  

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Campus Watch

HP University: Student Agitations Over Vaccination Intensify, Delay in Opening Hostels Adds to Their Woes

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HP University Student Vaccination

Shimla-While the Himachal Pradesh Government has put the vaccination of the 18-44 year age group on hold till July 9, voices demanding vaccination of all students and staff of Himachal Pradesh University are rising. Today a student organization demanded to open the varsity for all, including the hostels and library. In fact, students had been demanding the opening of the varsity library and hostels for some time now.

On Thursday, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had also met the Chief Warden, demanding opening of the hostels as students were compelled to spend on renting rooms or making alternate arrangements for stay to take their exams. It’s adding a financial burden on students, ABVP said.

The student body also highlighted the plight of students hailing from tribal areas where they don’t have Internet connectivity to carry on online learning.  

The National Students Union of India is already on a chain hunger strike for nearly a week over its demand to vaccinate all students and staff before conducting exams. If it is not possible for the state government, then cancel the exams, the student body is demanding. NSUI had also been protesting against offline exams and demanding online exams for the students of the first and second years.

NSUI has taken to social media to mobilize students and had been posting videos/photos of students addressing the government and the people on the problems they are facing due to offline exams.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Nigam Bhandari (@nigambhandari_)

Leaders of the Congress party, including the opposition leader, Mukesh Agnihotri and GS Bali, were seen supporting the student body by visiting their protest sites.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Nigam Bhandari (@nigambhandari_)

“We know the entire world is suffering from COVID-19 and all educational institutions remained closed for more than one and a half year. But now all educational institutions should be opened for all as the situation is under control,” the Student Federation of India said in a memorandum submitted to the Vice-Chancellor today.   

Now, SFI has also included vaccination of university employees and students in its list of demands. 

SFI demanded that a permanent vaccination centre should be set up on the university campus.

“The only hope against the pandemic is vaccination. We demand setting up a permanent vaccination centre on the HP university campus so all students in summer could get vaccinated,” the student body said.

Other demands of SFI included issuing schedule for the pending recruitment exams  for the posts of non-teaching staff and Panchayat Sahayak, forms for which were invited in March 2020.

The student body said the varsity must conduct entrance exams for the admissions to postgraduate courses this year.

“Last year, we saw the university authority didn’t conduct entrance exams, which was against the varsity admission norms. The HP High Court had also declared it arbitrary and unethical. We demand that for the sake of quality of education, the varsity must conduct entrance exams for admission in postgraduate courses,” the student body said in its memorandum.

Further, the student body gave some suggestions to the varsity authority, which included strengthening the online mode of education, buy online web services/apps, like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet etc., and preparing for the third wave. 

It also suggested undertaking online assessments of the performance of students and teachers. The student body said that the varsity will have to prepare a proper pattern for the assessment of the students and offer an objective type alternate mode of examination.

Other suggestions included inviting the students for the practical examinations batch-wise and setting up face shields in the library to increase the capacity.

The student body also demanded extending library membership to all researchers and students till the completion of their courses.

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Campus Watch

HPU Exams Without Vaccinating Students Opposed, If Online Classes Are Possible, Why Not Online Exams, Asks Student Body

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Cancel HPU Exams

Shimla-Amidst the ongoing battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, Himachal Pradesh Government has decided to hold exams for various Under Graduate classes.

The HPU has released the date sheet for B.Ed 1ST and 3rd-semester exams. The date sheet for M.Ed exams has also been released by the university. Final examination schedule for B.A., B.Sc., B.Com, Hons. and Shastri courses were also released on the University website on Monday.

However, ahead of the warming for the third wave, which is predicted to hit within the next 7-8 weeks, an HPU student body has opposed the decision citing the risk posed to students by offline examination in the middle of a pandemic.

Students have also taken to social media and have been demanding the cancellation of exams. Students had been Tweeting this demand with the hashtag #cancelhpuexams.

They also questioned why the government was not considering the safety of the college students while exams of school students were cancelled.

The NSUI state unit on Monday submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister through the Director of Higher Education demanding a statewide vaccination drive for students aged above 18 years before conducting the university exams. The student body also raised a demand for a reasonable reduction in the syllabus.

In a letter addressed to Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, the student body raised three demands. The body has asked the Chief Minister to ensure vaccination of all students before conducting exams. It proposed conducting online examinations if the government can’t vaccinate all students in such a short span.

“If online classes are possible, then exams should also be conducted online,” said Chattar Singh, the NSUI state president.

The student body also asked the state government to find an alternative medium for conducting exams so that students are not put at risk. The student body urged the state government to not use the students as “experimental kits.”

ABVP, SFI Demand Re-Opening of University Library

The state unit of SFI (HPU) and ABVP(HPU) on Monday raised the demand to re-open the university library which remained closed for the students due to the pandemic induced restrictions. In separate memorandums submitted to the University Library in-charge, both the student bodies have said the state government had allowed the re-opening of libraries with a capacity of 50% students on June 19. Despite the notification, the University has not released any notice regarding the same.

Research scholars are unable to pursue and complete their research without access to libraries. Students preparing for various exams are suffering a loss, ABVP said.  

SFI also raised concern over keeping students deprived of the 24×7 library section.

“The university takes pride in mentioning that it has a 24×7 section in its library. But the same section remains closed for the last one year and seven months. Last year, when the library was re-opened, the 24×7 section was kept closed,” SFI said. The student body has demanded that this students shouldn’t be kept deprived of this essential facility. 

SFI expressed disappointment over the lackadaisical attitude of the varsity authorities towards the demands for basic facilities. It said that while the students had been demanding the replacement of furniture in the libraries which is in a very poor state, the university administration is “busy installing sculptures.”  Despite demands, the varsity authority hasn’t moved a muscle, it said.

The student union has demanded the replacement of broken furniture, maintenance of the library washrooms and frequent sanitization of the library.

The student bodies have warned of protests if the varsity authority still doesn’t pay attention to their demands.

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Campus Watch

Video: How HPBOSE Will Calculate and Allot Marks to Class 10 Students

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hp board marks calculation formula for promotion

Shimla-The second wave of Covid-19 pandemic has washed out another academic session and disrupted the academic calendars of institutes. A

The HPBOSE recently notified its detailed criteria for compilation of result and promotion of students to the next higher class while focusing on, what it called, “Continuous Comprehensive Assessment (CCA)” and “Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE)”.

The notification came following the cancellation of the Annual Examination of Matriculation and Senior Secondary (Plus Two) classes of HP Board of School Education in wake of the pandemic.

The formula is based on class 9 result of the student, Class 10 first and second term exams, pre-board result, paper of one subject held on April 13, internal assessment and practical marks.

Himachal Watcher has prepared this video to help you understand the process.

Subject wise weightage will be allotted to students depending on the distribution of subjects by HPBOSE. Visit this link to check the weightage of marks per exams

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