The country’s coaching capital, known as the “quota factory”, has no friends but only competitors, say students and experts, as the government struggles to crack down on suicides among engineering and medical aspirants .
Officials say 20 students preparing for competitive exams have ended their lives in Kota so far in 2023 – the highest for any year. Last year this figure was 15.
Battling with hectic schedules, stiff competition, constant pressure to perform, the burden of parental expectations and homesickness, students say they often find themselves alone and unable to find someone to talk to or share their feelings with. No one is there.
Experts warn that parents also see friendships as a potential distraction for their kids and discourage them from making friends when they come here for coaching.
“There is no concept of friendship here… There is only competition. Every student sitting next to you is seen as an extra burden to fight with. Unlike schools and colleges, one does not share notes among peers here doesn’t because everyone is seen as a threat,” Ridhima Swamy, a NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) aspirant from Madhya Pradesh, told PTI, “who can snatch someone’s seat in the college of their choice. ”
Mansi Singh, a Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) aspirant from Odisha who has been here for the last two years, said life in Kota feels like one is on a “treadmill”.
He said, “It’s like running on a treadmill. You have only two options, either get down or keep running. You can’t brake, slow down, but can only keep running.”
Another student, who did not want to be identified, said that every moment not spent studying is considered “wasted”, which leads to a cycle of guilt and ultimately affects performance, which further There is more stress.
Sharing an incident, the student from Maharashtra said, “One day I got a call from the mother of a boy here who lives in the same hostel. She was worried that she was not able to reach her son and wanted Let me check on him as he was not attending classes for a week. I assured him that I will go to his room after returning to the hostel.. I went back and got busy with studies. While his mother kept calling me, I was busy preparing for an exam the next day and I was anxious that my time would be wasted and I would not be able to prepare well.
“His mother found someone else and the matter was resolved, but later I felt guilty what if he was unwell, what if he had taken this extreme step and I was just thinking that I should be tested. There will be less time to prepare for….there is so much pressure…I couldn’t sleep for days when I realized it,” he said.
Dinesh Sharma, head of the department of psychology at Government Nursing College, said here students neither open up nor develop empathy towards their peers.
“When parents drop their kids here their first instruction is… don’t waste time in friendship, you are here for studies. When parents see it negatively, students feel That this is something wrong and should not be done.
He said, “There are counselors in every coaching now, but these students are scared to open up with them as their parents might be informed about it… So friends can be really helpful, but The people who make friends here are not looked upon favorably.”
His views were echoed by Kota’s Additional Superintendent of Police Chandrasheel Thakur, who said that every student shows some signs when he is stressed and since parents are away, his friends will be the first to know.
“There is no joint practice in coaching, it is an individual journey and these students often feel lonely. Many times some of the hostel mates have informed us that someone is locking their door from inside and we have timely In most cases, students here are living away from family for the first time… Having friends can be very helpful, it should be encouraged,” he said.
Here, for a student preparing for competitive examinations, the academic program will generally consist of seven or eight hours of classes from Monday to Saturday, with a short break for refreshment, sometimes doubt sessions on Sundays and remedial classes, a At least three internal tests during the week and one major test on the last Sunday of the month.
Often grappling with the fast-paced curriculum and program structure, students say they are always racing against time and even a single day’s break can push them behind thousands of other students.
However, recent cases of student suicides have rekindled the debate whether adequate measures are being taken to ensure healthy competition among students.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot last week directed officials to form a committee to suggest measures to prevent suicides. The committee will consist of all stakeholders including representatives of coaching institutes, parents and doctors and will submit its report in 15 days.
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