India's rigidly conservative school system has adopted a touchy-feely approach to counter a rising youth suicide rate
by introducing a daily hug to the curriculum.
The Delhi state education board has made it mandatory for
students attending 600 government schools to begin their day with a "jaadu ki jhappi", an embrace to ward off stress.
Children aged 9 to 18 musy now give each other and their
teachers an affectionate cuddle at morning assembly.
But because of strict moral standards about public displays
of affection, the daily drill will be confined to same gender hugging.
The inspiration for the state's "life skills education programme"
came from Bollywood, the Hindi film industry, whose prolific output has a huge influence on Indian society. In the 2003 blockbuster,
Mummabhai MBBS, the
anti-hero played by Sanjay Dutt, is able to cure all ills with a simple hug.
Dehli educationalists, concerned by 20 suicides at schools
and colleges last year, compared with just one the previous year, decided to take the film's popular theme literally.
They hope to prevent the kind of situation that led to Khushibu,
a student at Subhash Nagar Government Girls' school in Maharastra, jumping to her death from a rooftop in September after
failing a mathematics exam for the fourth time.
An estimated 4.000 students commit suicide in India each year because
of exam failure or a fear of failure in a society where there is intense pressure to succeed academically.
"Students may try to speak out but no-one is listening to them," Rina
Ray, the state education secretary, told The Times "In
India there is a cultural cultural barrier to praising and parents do not hug their children. People think it will attract
the evil eye so that they, particularly girls, who are considered to be a liability, can have low self esteem. We aim to promote
a good touch. It is about the power of a warm hug."
The idea has already been given successful trials in some
schools in the capital and will now be introduced to the rest of the state.
"Many government schools in India are rigid and boring places
but children must want to come to school. The teachers also need to learn to relax a bit," Mrs Ray said.
She was educated in Britain and says she hugs her son twice a
Attached to this report was a small piece of information from the Times database...
Pupils at Callington Community College in Cornwall have been banned from hugging because it made
them late for lessons