Young students committing suicide unable to cope with pressure can be prevented if they are comforted that becoming a doctor or an engineer aren’t the only career paths, say counsellors.
A 17-year-old Ghaziabad girl jumping off a five-storey building in Rajasthan’s Kota on Thursday out of pressure is the fifth case this year in the town known as a coaching hub for pre-medical and engineering examinations.
Kriti Tripathi left behind a five-page suicide note, apologising to her parents, despite clearing the first round of IIT-JEE, for not being able to fulfill their dream of becoming an engineer.
Lakhs of students like her, under tremendous peer and social pressure, are enrolled in engineering coaching institutes at Kota, said counsellor with CBSE Geetanjali Kumar.
Kumar was part of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights team that visited Kota last month after several incidents of student suicides were reported from the town, 250 kilometres away from Jaipur.
Most children in the town, hailing from small and big cities alike, come burdened by parents, family, neighbourhood and society, she said.
“Parents are clueless about alternative career options. They think, becoming an engineer or a doctor is the safest option. On the top of it, coaching institutes complete this brainwashing and charge close to Rs 2 lakh from a student,” said Kumar.
Additionally, parents tell the children they have to clear the exams because they have taken a loan or borrowed money to fund their coaching. “Then everything is on the child…and he or she are not able to handle this,” said Kumar.
The problem compounds in Kota as children are not part of regular schooling, which results in lack of development of inter-personal skills. Experts said students don’t have anyone to share their problems with — neither friends nor counselors.
At least 56 students studying in different institutes in the city have committed suicide in the last five years, most of them attributed to the fear of failure.
“One batch is a class of 180-200 students. From where will students get personalised attention? Students need to be continuously reassured that it is fine if they can’t clear the exam. But generally this does not happen,” said Kumar.
The many coaching institutes she visited, Kumar recounted, had no recreation or sports facility.
“A subculture has developed in the town where even acceptance among fellow students has become conditional to performance. It depends on how well a student can solve worksheets. Since children are deprived of normal growing up, I also saw students indulging with chats on internet and substance abuse,” said Kumar.
Counsellors describe these as “in-built pressure” by the student. “I tell students they need to have fallback options. Find out about alternative career options. This needs to be done by the time student reaches class tenth. Career orientation programmes are a must in schools which is currently missing,” said Meenakshi Verma, counsellor at Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan.