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April 4, 2011

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Parents set up fund to prevent other tragedies

THE family of a 15-year-old boy who jumped to his death last week is to set up a fund at his school to offer counselling for teachers and students in a bid to prevent future tragedies.

Cen Cen was a bright student at the private Jing'an Foreign Language High School in Shanghai with an impressive academic record. His suicide is believed to have been in response to his teacher's insistence he end his relationship with a girl in his class.

The teacher is said to have frowned on their teen romance and even threatened to take away their prized Youth League badges if they did not end it.

"In the final couple of days, my boy was under huge stress, some of his classmates later told me," Chen Xiaohong, the boy's mother, said yesterday.

Last Tuesday, the teenagers' class teacher, a woman in her 20s, phoned both sets of parents asking for their help in ending the relationship. Her concern was that the romance would distract them from their studies and encourage fellow students to cultivate similar relationships.

Call from police

Teen romance is not something readily condoned in Chinese culture.

The next day, Chen said, the teacher again talked to her son. The boy returned home that evening but left soon after, never to return.

"I spent the whole night looking for him until the next morning when I received a call from the police," she said. "I listened to their description of the dead body and my mind just went blank."

The boy had been found lying at the foot of a building near his home, still wearing his school uniform.

Chen said her son did not keep his crush on the girl a secret from the family. "I knew the feelings between them had gone on for two or three years," she said.

She added: "To my son, the girl was a great source of mental comfort. They studied together and encouraged each other."

Cen Cen had told her they were working hard to pass their exams so they could be admitted to the same high school.

'On impulse'

"I wouldn't condemn the teacher. She was too young and too simple and harsh in dealing with the children. I feel that the whole society - teachers, children and us parents - seem generally poor in communicating with others especially in stressful moments. My child failed to make it through the crisis and he did what he did on impulse," Chen said.

Chen and her husband have reached an agreement with the school to launch a fund in the boy's name to pay for professional psychological counseling for students and teachers to prevent such tragedies in future.

"At the least, the fund might help make my son's death not valueless and would, I believe, allow his soul to rest in peace," Chen said.

The teacher had asked to attend the funeral but it was felt some relatives might become too emotional on seeing her.

The story sparked widespread debate online.

Some people said the teacher should have not interfered in the students' private lives while others criticized the education system for failing to teach students how to deal with stress and placing too much focus on academic scores.


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