I WAS saddened by the news on Tuesday of a bright Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student who stabbed his professor and fell to his death ('NTU professor slashed on campus; attacker dies in fall'). I would like to relate my story in the hope that something can be done to help students under stress.
I am a working mother with two sons. One month ago, my older son, who is studying in a prestigious junior college, lied to me that he had headache, diarrhoea and all sorts of sicknesses, just to get a medical certificate (MC) in order to stay at home.
At first, I did not sense anything was amiss but when, a week later, he still did not attend school, I sat down and talked to him. He confided that he had lost interest and motivation in studies. He was very tired of the whole process and did not wish to continue any more. Hearing this, my husband and I were shocked and tried to find out if something had happened in school to make him feel so down but he said no.
Without further ado, I talked to his civics tutor and classmates, hoping to find out more. I arranged an appointment with the school counsellor and accompanied my son to school, but the counselling did not help him - the counsellor was resigning and there was no replacement.
We tried to talk to our son again and give him encouragement through some extended family members, and he seemed to listen and agreed to continue school. My husband even took him to school every day, but after a few days, his mood swung again and he did not go to school at all but took the bus home.
We knew it was no use forcing him to attend school. We arranged for him to see a psychiatrist. He is currently on two weeks' MC and has been prescribed anti-depression medicine.
We met the school principal and civics tutor again and explained our son's situation. To our disappointment, they insisted that he return to school after the MC expires and stressed that there were only a few months left to the A-level exams.
We were so disappointed to hear this. We worry about the well-being of our child, but the school is concerned only about study and the A-level exams. What has happened to the school system?
Karen Ong (Mrs)
This article was first published in The Straits Times.