Chandigarh, August 28
Seeing their children succeed in life is perhaps the biggest dream of parents. It is a logical, reasonable dream, after all, which parent does not want his or her child to do well in life. However, there are times when a reasonable expectation can come at a cost, as proved again on Sunday at India’s “coaching hub” Kota.
With two more young suicides on Sunday, that too within hours from each other following a test, Kota lived up to the sad reputation it has acquired over the past few years along with being the coaching hub of the country. Whether the unfortunate incidents will make a difference to the reasons that caused them is debatable, but they haveagain put a question mark on the methodology of coaching in these institutes.
According to reports, 16-year-old Aavishkar Sambhaji Kasle (a resident of Latur, Maharashtra), died by suicide by jumping from the sixth floor of a coaching institute. He was preparing for medical entrance NEET. 18-year-old Adarsh from Bihar, who was found hanging in his room, was also preparing for NEET. Adarsh was regularly scoring low in the tests of the coaching institute.
Earlier this month, Kota collector OP Bunkar had issued strict instructions to coaching institutes that tests should not be conducted on Sundays. After the two tragic incidents after tests on Sunday, he issued fresh orders saying that no coaching institute would be allowed to conduct tests for students for two months, according to reports.
A fact also is that lakhs of students come to Kota every year, many of whom also successfully fulfil their and their parents’ dreams.
Kota sends highest number of students to prestigious engineering and medical institutes, including IITs, NITs, and AIIMS--statistics that have transformed the flourishing industrial town in Rajasthan into a booming coaching hub.
Kota’s coaching industry
Over two lakh students arrive in Kota every year to prepare for competitive exams like the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) for engineering and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical colleges.
Primarily an industrial town, the district transitioned into a coaching hotspot attracting students from across the country, becoming a money-spinning enterprise for the region.
The multi-crore industry now provides jobs to not just teachers and those associated with coaching but also businesses related to catering, lodging, hostels, etc.
Aspirants from across, big and small towns land here to fulfil their dreams.
The cost of preparing for competitive exams in Kota ranges anywhere from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh per year, which can be a strain for students from not-so-well-off families.
Meeting expectations of families
Posters outside coaching academies with pictures of toppers are a constant reminder to aspirants that only the best of the best make it to the prestigious engineering and medical institutes in the country, saysocial scientists.
Apart from facing expectedchallenges like changein home environment, lack of support system, language issues and disparities in teaching system in a highly competitive environment, the system requires acquiring a certain skill set to crack the competitive exam, adding to the burden.
Those from economically challenged families have an additional burden—to fulfill the expectations of families who may have taken loans or mortgaged properties to fund their education.
“Many of the aspirants who land in Kota are toppers in their home state. But apart from dealing with extensive syllabus and different teaching methodology, they also have to deal with pressure stemming from parents’ expectations.
"It is a constant struggle to do well in coaching and clear exams and find a place in the cut-offs. Financial strain, if any, amplifies the burden of expectations. The pressure increases if a student fails to clear the tests. Many times, students from big cities seem to fare better in facing the challenges,” explain social scientists.
When burden becomes too much
According to data sourced from various ground reports, Kota recorded an average three suicides monthly in 2023.
As many as 22 young lives have been lost so far this year.
As per reports, 15 students died by suicide in 2022, 18 in 2019, 20 in 2018, seven in 2017, 17 in 2016, and 18 in 2015 in Kota.
In 2021, four students died by suicide as most of them had left Kota after the onset of Covid.
In the past 12 years, more than 150 students have died by suicide in Kota.
According to a suicide note left by 17-year-old, his decision was “voluntary”. Reports quoted his father as saying that they were in constant touch with the child “but he never mentioned being under any sort of tension”.
In the majority of cases, students who have taken the extreme step have left families and friends searching for answers. “The rate of suicides in Kota is within the normal range. Parents are to blame for these cases,” Bunkar was quoted as saying.
Putting a stop by de-stressing students
Some bizarre methods are reportedly being employed like "spring-loaded fans" in rooms and “anti-suicide nets” in balconies and lobbies of hostels to prevent students from taking the extreme step.
According to hostel owners, such steps were necessary to make the premises “suicide proof”.
Though according to experts, it is the mental health and well-being of young aspirants that everyone needs to be more concerned about, especially parents and coaching institutes.
Some centres claim to be taking steps to help de-stress students.
Some also claim to have improved teacher-student ratio to help aspirants learn better.
But experts say that teaching methodologies need an overhaul and institutes should also be equipped with “professional help and support systemsfor counseling and interventions. It is theirduty also to ensure mental health and overall development while helping students crack entranceexams,” they add.
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