It is that time of year. The internet shuts down in the entire country. Walls of homes fume with stress. Teenagers cry to sleep. Youth vomit in examination rooms. Young girls have panic attacks like they have ran four marathons in a row from one summer holiday to the next. A few commit suicide. A few others get depression, and a handful are traumatised for life. One or two we hear of urinated in examination halls, and some faint due to the heat. For some the grade they receive at the end of year 12 is their death certificate, for others a golden ticket to a head held high in society. For so many, they no longer live. They become a hopeless, empty, negative, soulless walking talking creature who will forever reflect on “that year” in their life as the “worst ever!”
Within my extended family and friends I have seen mixed stories of year 12. There are those who received the top marks in the country, made their families proud and marched into medical school with head held high, and called themselves doctor before their first lecture. We have those who suffer from trauma until today because they didn’t get the right grades; there are those who fainted in examination halls, those who blanked out and said they didn’t remember anything they had studied for the past 15 months; and those who repeated the year only to receive a “lower grade” the following year; and a handful are doing absolutely nothing with their lives now because they are not where they wanted to be “because of year 12.” There is also that one person who was accepted into medical college and decided to do computer science instead, the parents are yet to forgive this sinful act. And the young man who wanted a degree just for the sake of his future wife’s father’s blessing in their marriage.
The multiple choice questions they take in June and July determine their entire future. It is as simple, and as complicated and as pathetic as that.
I have seen how year 12 ruin relationships at home, crashes dreams, puts families in debt and demolishes every drop of confidence a person can have.
What can we do now? In an ideal world, the method of entering and being accepted into any college should change. I do not have the magic wand that can do that, and neither does our government. The process of university acceptance needs to include passion, background, talent, interview process (imagine the Wasta there) and then grades to be taken into consideration. It is not a rocket to the moon, there are some great examples in the outside world that one can adapt to our local context. The sad reality is that considering the political and economic situation education is not a priority.
- Students from grade 10 need to have time management and stress management sessions. This can be done after school once a week. The social worker can do these sessions. Young people do not know the techniques to manage their time and manage the stress endured in those two years, taking their mental health on a rollercoaster ride.
- Teachers, parents, media and the community must start to play a positive role in allowing youth to understand that there is hope beyond medicine, engineering, pharmacy and law. Awareness raising, success stories and alternative pathways should be made clear to youth (and their families). Success stories can be shared of individuals who did not have the top grades but are in phenomenal places now, youth need to see and hear these! There is also need for alternative pathways.
- Government employment can be based on experience, expertise and passion. Salary increase and promotions cannot be based on a degree.
- Public higher education needs to expand, more public colleges and institutes need to open with intensive, practical courses and skills that meet market demand. Youth want a job and a payment, and will opt for the path that will give them a living.
Imagine this: A 17-year-old boy does not receive the grades to enter a college of choice, he cannot pay for an institute and 12 years of education did not give him slight life skills or job skills to manage his life or a job to meet market demand. What are the options and alternatives available beyond daily labour? And until when? For him, the reality is suicidal.
Until next time, let’s have some hope and at least teach year 11 and 12 students some breathing techniques.
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan
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