Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

This topic is better understood when divided into smaller terms. Beginning with the term which can be known to a few but unknown to the maximum of the population i.e., ‘intersectionality’. The word was first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory, in the year 1989. The word gained its popularity from the 1990s. The term was coined as a reference to address the overlapping discriminations and oppressions going on against black women and why they were excluded from antiracist policies and traditional feminist ideas. As the time went by, this term found its way to various social fields. Currently, this word is no longer limited to black women but is used to describe the overlapping of oppression systems which create different but unique experiences for people having multiple identity categories. As quoted by Audre Lorde, an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian and activist, “There is no such thing as single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives”. It does not require any other explanation as it is self-explanatory enough. Since no one lives the life of single-issue, overlapping is bound to take place.

As of the current world, the increasing rate of competition in any field is not hidden anymore. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety have seen a hike amongst students all over the world which further led to increased rate of suicides. According to the latest reports presented by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) a new range of 12,526 student suicide cases have been recorded which is 21.19% more than that of the records reported back in 2019. From various research works or surveys or articles available online it can be clearly analyzed that both educational system and mental health are interdependent on each other. Educational life of a student may degrade with a degrading mental health. In the same manner a student’s mental health may deteriorate with a deteriorating educational system. In this fast growing world, proper education is the basic right of every individual to survive and lead a life here. As education is important, having a good and stable mental health is also important. According to recent surveys it can be recorded that suicide is the third leading cause amongst deaths in the age group of 15-24 years old. There could be hundreds of reasons behind but some common reasons may consist of breakup with girlfriend/boyfriend, having an abusive family, failure in a particular field, relationship issues, dealing with social anxiety etcetera. These are some general issues but one’s educational background can also be a reason. In this modern world where half of the population is accepting new ideas, opportunities and career options, half of the world is still stuck with orthodoxical viewpoints. They find it difficult to accept ideas that are new to them or they do not have any kind of knowledge or expertise in it. As a result, they prevent their children from pursuing such a field as their career option even if it leads to shattering their children’s dream and motivation. They are scared to let their children explore their own lives and sometimes become over controlling. This leaves a huge impact on the mental condition of the child. From the very beginning the educational institutes prepare a child for the going on competition. In most cases it has been seen that it is assumed by the teachers that every student in a class is having similar mental capabilities as a result of which they set a high standard of teaching. Some students easily cope with it while others face difficulty. Their marks come down followed by their mental health. They are even blamed for not being sincere enough or smart enough or not trying hard enough. In schools or colleges, they are entitled as ‘being dumb’. They even find it difficult to cope up with the pressure of assignments, tests, examinations, bullying etcetera. At home, they are considered a disappointment and are constantly compared with other kids. No one even gives importance to the child’s mental health which leads the child to a sensation of complete loneliness and helplessness. “A teacher and his way of thinking - that’s what is most important in any educational system.” This statement was quoted by a German educator, thinker and progressive liberal politician, Adolph Diesterweg. True enough, this statement should be followed by every teaching professional whether they work in schools, colleges or universities. Mostly this statement is for parents also as they are the first teachers for a child. Another situation comes forward where the child is restrained from pursuing his/her dream subject as a career option. In today’s educational world, some subjects are given way too much priority while other subjects are nearly neglected even if those subjects consist of a life value. Subjects which can help people through their lives, subjects which teach the value of self and the rest of the world are always kept aside. It has become a tendency of some parents to put the burden of their unfulfilled dreams on their child burying the dreams of the child. And while confronting them all they have to say is ‘we care for our children’. From an orthodoxical point of view it comes under care but with a modern point of view it comes under controlling. With all these theories in mind, it can be said that the current educational system needs a lot of rectification so that no child should have his or her mental health ruptured.

Now coming to the educational systems and mental health from the lens of intersectionality. From the theories and conditions mentioned above one can easily detect the overlapping or intersection of reality and one’s personal life. To make the point more clear, scenarios from other countries should be taken into consideration. When the term intersectionality was coined it included the discriminations against black women in America. Kimberlé Crenshaw even said during her speech at TED that she began to use the term intersectionality because in reality there were situations where social issues like racism and sexism seemed to overlap creating multiple levels of social injustice. Now coming to the educational point of view, intersectionality here exists in different layers. In an educational institution, children of different backgrounds come to study together. In a classroom, the only things that they have in common are their age group and their goal of becoming someone with a great potential in life. Rest all other factors like family background, race, class (rich or poor), caste, gender, religion, physical and mental health status vary from each other. There are many students amongst them who fall under the category of multiple identity. On the basis of their multiple identity category they are marginalized, dominated and discriminated not only at an individual level but sometimes at institutional level. People always look down on them and they are not given the opportunities that other students get. Due to many social issues like sexism, racism, religious beliefs, religious disputes, cultural differences etcetera, a certain group of people are being discriminated against on a daily basis and they find it difficult to protest because sometimes they are not even given the right to speak for themselves. There are many good institutions out there who provide a high standard education but have a dark history. That is, either they only give admissions to a particular group of the society or they discriminate amongst their students. They provide not so good classrooms to those having multiple identities and the opportunities and scopes they get are very less in number or not very important. If we take examples from outside educational institutes then also their numbers are vast. In many backward countries or even in many villages in India, girls are forbidden from going to school. On the other hand, they discriminate against those who belong from a minority community. Now the condition of a girl belonging to a minor community can be well understood. The other girls can protest against the discrimination they are facing as they go through only one issue. But those minor community girls have to face more discrimination as two social issues are overlapping or intersecting in their case. Now if we talk about the mental health of these people then we can say that their mental condition is on the verge of breaking down.

Everyday one may come to know about discriminations against people taking place inside educational institutes. But discriminations against people belonging to multiple identity categories are very rare to hear as those incidents hardly get any media coverage. Those incidents only make it to headlines when a group of people together come forward seeking justice for the victims. Understanding the concept of intersectionality will help an individual to better understand how multiple social issues can overlap and how an individual can be discriminated against based on it. There should be an educational system where every child, no matter from what backgrounds they belong to, should be given equal opportunities to know their real worth. The basic knowledge of intersectionality should be provided to students at any early age so that they become enough aware of how a victim of discrimination may feel and how to support them mentally and emotionally so that they can stand strong an fight against the oppressions and dominations they face.  

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