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Friday, July 8, 2016

Next door to Kota, IIT dreams don’t end in suicide - Asian Age

Next door to Kota, IIT dreams don’t end in suicide

Students at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Bundi.

The announcement of IIT JEE (Advanced) results is usually accompanied by many rah-rahs of self-congratulation from the big boys of Kota’s coaching industry.

Parents, mostly poor and middle class, buy the dream of having their child qualify for the IITs through such a tortuous path of study at an unbearable monetary cost — and sometimes, even at the cost of a human life. They have perhaps not heard of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), a completely free co-educational residential school, established for underprivileged children, and producing IITians with a success rate unmatched by Kota’s money-minting coaching factories.

Barely 30 km from Kota, JNV Bundi’s has sent 205 students to the IITs, its success rate being an astonishing 90 per cent. Read the score line: 47, 50 and 40 out of 50, 55 and 49 in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively.

What makes the success of JNV Bundi so special is that it comes at literally no cost. Parents do not have to spend a single penny on either school fees or IIT coaching; even boarding and lodging are free.

“My father was not in a position to even afford my school fees,” says Mayank Chittora, who was the best performer with an all India ranking of 952.

“There is no parental expectation or pressure to excel because literally everything is free here. Also, there is no pressure or obligation on students to opt for IIT; it is their wish and will. We do well when there is no pressure,” explained Mathew Thomas, deputy commissioner of Navodaya Vikas Samiti, Jaipur region.
Not surprisingly, there has not been a single suicide in the last seven years since JNV Bundi started preparing its students for the IIT entrance exam. There were 15 student suicides last year and eight in the first half of this year in Kota.
“There are no separate or special classes for students appearing for IIT JEE. After regular classes, students have their own study schedule,” says G. Suryanarayanan, principal of JNV Bundi. Although he thinks that being a residential school allows students to be more focused and dedicated towards studies while teachers are also able to better monitor and work on them.

The school also pays attention to physical activities, unlike Kota, where the district collector had to issue instructions to coaching institutes to provide students time for relaxation and organise fun activities. There is a playground and facilities for indoor games, like table tennis. The day begins with physical training.
Such a salutary atmosphere notwithstanding, the IIT success would not have been possible without Dakshana, a non-profit organisation, founded by NRI Mr Mohnish Pabrai and his spouse, Ms Harina Kapoor. Their help enabled the launch in 2007 of a Navodaya Dakshana JEE Scholarship programme — inspired by Anand’s Super 30, a programme that originated in Patna to help meritorious and underprivileged students — to prepare JNV students for IIT. Since then 1351 students out of 2457 have qualified for admission into the IITs. The target is 2020 in 2020 i.e 2020 students from the JNV system going to India’s premier tech schools by 2020.

Getting into JNV itself is not easy. Last year nearly 19 lakh candidates sat for the entrance for 40,000-odd seats. JNV students who wish to sit for IIT JEE also have to go through a test after Class 10.