Kota Coaching killing fields need parents to take call of empathy

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Students suicides in Kota coaching remain unabated

By Deepak K Upreti

Should ‘coaching’ for competitive examinations be leading to student  suicides…?  The obvious answer, in a normal situation, would be  a big ‘no’.

But it is an unambiguous ‘Yes’  in the  money spinning institutes, located at Kota,  in  the South East of Rajasthan,  known for its coaching  for engineering and medical entrance examinations.
The city  has around 1.5 lakh students during the peak season from July to November each year.

While the country is frantically  debating a host of issues, including the coming Lok Sabha polls and the role of the aspirational youth in the government formation by way of their vote, scarce attention is paid to  regular student suicides in the coaching centres of Kota.  Ironical or even  exaggerated, as it may sound, suicides  have become an almost a second habit with the  desperate  students  in the ‘thriving’  teaching hub of Rajasthan. It is a new normal there.

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In 2023, the count of  suicides by students in the Kota coaching institutes stood at 28, most of them being stress driven.

The run of suicides is on this year too with seventh death registered this week.

The latest victim of  Kota ‘ killing fields’ is a NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) aspirant Somaya Kurmi, 20, from Amehi, Uttar Pradesh (UP), who died by suicide at his Paying Guest ((PG) room on March 27.

Just a day before  20-year-old NEET aspirant Mohammad Urooj, again from UP,  had died by suicide as he hanged himself in his PG room in the intervening night of March 26-27.

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Token steps:

The installation of collapsible ceiling fans – a token measure taken by the authorities last year in PGs to foil attempted suicides- was not available in Urooj’s room- and thereby tragedy could  not be  averted.

The half-hearted implementation of installing fans with anti-suicide devices has in earlier occasions too led to the loss of a young student who had also  hanged  herself by a ceiling  fan which was not a  collapsible one.

While the  government in the state changed hands in December last from the Congress to the BJP,  the spiral of students’ suicide is unabated.

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The inaction of the state education authorities (which on and off held few ‘high-power meetings’ and suggested counseling of students) has unsuspectingly not helped any marked reversible of  the  suicide trend, increasingly turning macabre.

State Government’s measures were shallow with one erstwhile Congress state Minister, last year, even listing steps like ‘building of an amusement park and a riverfront’ to ensure ‘students are not depressed’.

His remark came on the day a 16-year-old student from Jharkhand’s Ranchi, another  NEET student in Kota, ended his life.

The repeat deaths have neither arisen the conscience of central education ministry which  is  apparently focused  on the New Education Policy.

Given the enormity of the situation, emergency measures needed to have taken by any establishment seeking to describe itself ‘sensitive’ to the needs of the youth of the country.

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No auditing of coaching institutions :

A sweeping socio-psychological and administrative auditing of mushrooming coaching centres is urgently  required to understand the underneath causes and  pattern of suicides in Kota.

The spate of suicides  are enough to shake  any state or a  society but all seem to have become  subservient to the ever loud political rhetoric.

For want of any regulation and accountability, the coaching institutes are running their ‘business’ as usual- taking no authentic remedial measures to ‘de-stress’ their  coaching eco-system which is proving increasingly fatal to the majority of  students aged 16-18 years.

Stress of expectations :

At the bottom of plethora of suicides is the unmitigated stress caused to vulnerable youngsters, many of them being unwilling participants in the career rat-race. They are forced to join it under the societal pressure.

After completing their higher-secondary, the children yet quite  confused and going under mental churn about their career choices, suddenly find themselves in the middle of exceedingly ruthless study norms like in Kota.

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The system adopted by coaching institutions  should have been outlawed in any state remotely empathetic to the mental health of the age group of students entering these mercenary hub of ‘unlearning’.

Almost airdropped by ‘ambitious’ parents in an arid zone of  ‘education’ with no friend-circle to share with  their alienation, angst or pent-up feelings, the delicate buds readily  wilt under pressure and die much before their flowering.

Segregation of students:

Those who have attended Kota coaching confide that ‘bright students’ with ‘potential’ to bring laurels to the coaching institutes are  ‘segregated’ from those tagged as ‘average’ and provided special coaching.

This ‘class system’ creates mental trauma to students who are already burdened with the ‘mountain of expectations’ of their parents hailing  from the aspirational lower middle class segments.

Early this year, Niharika an 18-year-old girl took the extreme step in Kota just before her JEE exam on January 31, saying herself “the worst daughter”.

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“Mummy and Papa, I can’t do JEE. So, I am committing suicide. I am a loser. I am the reason. I am the worst daughter. Sorry, Mummy and Papa. This is the last option,” she said in her suicide note found by the police.

Before this on  January 23, Mohammad Zaid from Moradabad,  UP, who was preparing for NEET through private coaching in Kota, died by suicide. He was aged 17 or 18. No suicide note was, though, found by his side.

Parents need to de-condition :

Kota’s coaching institutes take away students from regular and relaxed class-room education  to the robotic  ghettos with no joy of learning. To most of the students, Kota coaching centres ( and elsewhere too) are nothing more  than ‘coaching factories’ where ordered products are fashioned and delivered at a  price.

More than the innocent children who are forced on the chopping block of the competitive examinations, it is parents who need to de-condition themselves and clearly step out of the blind mercenary race  of ‘competition  & career’ and love their children for what they are.

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