Search This Blog

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Why Kota Kills: 7 Reasons Behind Student Suicides in Coaching Town - The Quint

The Quint investigates the student suicides in the country’s largest education hub. (Photo: The Quint)
INDIA | 5 min read

Aviral Virk
May 4, 2016, 9:37 pm

1. Parental Expectations
Nobody knows if anyone ever asked Kriti if she wanted to be an engineer. A day after her IIT JEE (Main) results were declared, she jumped from the fifth floor of her rented apartment in Kota. She’d passed with 144/360 marks, way below her expectations.
Bright, cheerful and ambitious – that’s how 17-year-old Kriti’s neighbours in Ghaziabad remember her. That she was depressed went unnoticed even by her parents who stayed with her for most part of the two years that she spent studying for IIT at Kota’s Vibrant Academy.
Twenty-four students enrolled in one of the 130-odd coaching institutes in Kota have committed suicide in the last sixteen months.

The Quint visited Kota to find out why.

2. No Screening Process
Of the 130-odd coaching institutes in Kota, none conduct a screening or entrance test. Not all students are cut out for IIT or AIIMS. Many don’t even have an aptitude for mathematics or science. India’s shadow education system thrives on our obsession with doctors and engineers which has led a dying industrial town like Kota to evolve into a booming education hub.
Pramod Maheshwari, who co-founded Career Point, is brutally honest about how business gets the better of education in Kota.
“If we don’t admit a child, some other coaching institute will pick him up. A second reason for not having a screening process is that no parent likes to hear that his/her child won’t make it to the IITs. They will push for it and say ‘Let him give it a shot, at worst one year will get wasted’.”

Kota is full of big hoardings boasting All India Ranks. (Photo: The Quint)

3. Money Talks
It’s unparalleled success rate has ensured that Kota is the go-to destination for IIT and AIPMT coaching. The coaching institutes are able to maintain their academic records with the help of independent syllabi that goes into far greater detail than what is taught in Class 11 and 12. Ex-IITian teachers and a gruelling study schedule breaks down12 hours into 90 minute classes separated by 10 minute breaks.

Speaking to The Quint, Sfurti who’s studying at one of the biggest coaching institutes in Kota says her institute allots classes on the basis of aptitudes. Those in the top batches are given express treatment – like special classes, fully-equipped libraries and 24-hour teachers on call for clearing doubts. Potential toppers are given fully-furnished apartments with a cook, maid and scooters.

When you see others doing well it instills a sense of competition. But when you see them being rewarded with money and other facilities, it leaves you feeling insecure.

Prayers scribbled on the walls of Kota’s Radhe Shyam temple are indicative of the kind of the pressure students are under. (Photo: The Quint)

4. Poaching Toppers
In Kota, scouts who identify potential toppers are common. Coaching institutes are known to lure them with money, just so that their top rank in the IIT or AIPMT can be published under their institute’s name. Crores are spent on advertising these top All India Ranks in newspapers and on hoardings across the country to lure more students to join them.

Sfurti claims a friend of hers was offered big money to shift to her coaching institute just days before the exam.

Daughter of a leading ENT specialist in Kota, Sfruti is fighting pressure as she prepares for the AIPMT. (Photo: The Quint)

5. Catch ‘em Young
The coaching institutes have realised the business potential of starting coaching classes for children as young as 13. These students are enrolled in what is called a dummy school. On paper, they are enrolled in a government-recognised school, but in practice they are attending coaching classes instead of regular school. Attendance is not a criteria to get into a higher class.
There is now a law that stops coaching institutes from catering to the education needs of a class 8 student.

We exist because of our failing education system. The government is focusing on social welfare schemes and shows high enrolment numbers to prove its education system is working. But where is the quality? Teachers should be given incentives to get results, not make mid-day meals.
Pramod Maheshwari, Director, Career Point

6. Dummy Schools
Ranjan, a government employee from Patna had filled up forms for his 13-year-old son to admit him to a coaching institute. He wants his son to crack the IIT and is going to pay ten times his current school fees to give him a four-year headstart to the entrance exam.

Ranjan’s son will not only be straightjacketed into a career choice, but he will have to leave his home, school and friends to live all by himself in Kota.

Ranjan and Ruby Kumari insist their 13-year-old is ready to leave home and study for IIT in Kota. (Photo: The Quint)

Dr Surbhi Goyal insists this is detrimental to a child considering s/he is deprived of regular school and necessary peer interaction.

Kids from small towns and big cities come to Kota. The institutional nature of this coaching hub ends in a classroom. Outside the class, the child is left to his or her own devices. Very few 13 year olds are mentally equipped to handle the responsibility and the culture shock. Many seek out solace in relationships. One of the cases I had reviewed, the girl committed suicide because she was pregnant. She was from a small town and didn’t know who to go to for help. Drug habits and loans are other reasons why children end their lives. 
Dr Surbhi Goyal, Counsellor

7. Alternate Reality

Like Surjeet, Lovy has made no friends and struggles to cope with the studies and the culture differences in Kota. (Photo: The Quint)

Kota is an alternate social and cultural universe. It has allowed a welder’s son from Bihar to crack the IITs and secure a Rs 1.2 crore pay package from Microsoft. On the other end of the spectrum is Lovy from Delhi who sought timely help from a counsellor after being ragged on “for wearing shorts and dresses”.

Most of the people here are from MP and Bihar. I’m used to wearing shorts and dresses, but the girls in the hostel talk behind my back and say I have too much attitude because I’m from Delhi. But that’s not the case. It deeply affects me when people have such wrong misconceptions about me and because of this I have no friends.

Producer: Tridip Mandal
Cameraperson: Siddharth Safaya
Video Editor: Nitin Sharma