A day after the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Mains 2016 results were announced, Rajasthan-based newspapers carried full page advertisements of JEE ‘toppers’ from prominent coaching centres of Kota city, often called the ‘coaching industry’ of India.
On the same day, 17-year-old Kriti Tripathi jumped off a multi-storey building in Kota after she cracked IIT JEE.
In a five-page suicide note to her family, Kriti, a resident of Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, explained her distress at not being able to live up to her parents’ expectation, her interests regarding engineering, hopes for her younger sister and an apology for her actions.
Tripathi said she would have rather studied bachelors in science instead of the engineering studies her parents urged her to pursue.
Kriti’s death took the students’ suicide toll in Kota to 25 in the past 16 months. Police records show 82 students enrolled in private coaching centres in Kota have committed suicide in the last five years.
A city known for its highly competitive private coaching centres is now struggling with an uncomfortable tag of breeding an environment that pressurises students for enhanced performance.
Yet, the alarming number of suicides has barely seen any organised protest or campaign from the civil society. Even social media, which often runs campaigns demanding mainstream media to cover certain issues, has failed to register any ‘trend’ on the issue.
Now, Kota district collector Ravi Kumar Surpur has written a letter for parents in order to sensitise them on the pressure their children face.
“Private coaching centres are a blot on our education system as they do not impart education in its proper sense. Unless there is an initiative from the people of Kota, we will never realise what harm these coaching centres have been doing to our society,” said Nikhil Dey, an educator and activist.
Kumar Abhishek, a native of Kanpur, has been studying in Kota for the past two years. He said the tag of ‘outstation aspirants’ and lack of protest from the residents is the reason why coaching centres operate in a ‘fiercely competitive’ manner.
According to a report by HT, 1.25 lakh students enroll in coaching centres of Kota every year and 85% of them hail from UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, MP and Haryana.
Students are often divided into several batches depending on their performance in coaching centre’s exams or their 10th boards mark sheet. ‘A’ batch students are usually taught by ‘top notch’ faculty with years of experience whereas ‘C’, ‘D’ or lower batches are trained by supposedly inferior teachers.
“Newspapers either decorate the toppers or highlight the suicide cases. What no one notices are the thousands of students who are trapped in this ‘class divide’ where low scoring ones are given inferior treatment. Not everybody gets into IIT”, said Abhishek.
Home sickness, burden of expectations, regionalism and an environment of fierce competition are some of the major problems that outstation students face.