Coronavirus update: Anxiety and a lot of time to study for students stuck in coaching hub Kota | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Coronavirus update: Anxiety and a lot of time to study for students stuck in coaching hub Kota

Hindustan Times, Kota | ByAabshar H Quazi
Apr 04, 2020 10:22 AM IST

Rashi Todani, 19, one of the around-40,000 students stranded in the coaching hub of Kota, sees a silver lining to the nationwide lockdown. “Though I am away from my parents, I am focusing on my studies,” says Todani, a resident of West Bengal’s Raniganj who is preparing for the National Medical Entrance Examination (NEET).

Rashi Todani, 19, one of the around-40,000 students stranded in the coaching hub of Kota, sees a silver lining to the nationwide lockdown.

Coronavirus update: Currently, around 40,000 students are stuck in Rajasthan’s Kota.(PTI File Photo)
Coronavirus update: Currently, around 40,000 students are stuck in Rajasthan’s Kota.(PTI File Photo)

“Though I am away from my parents, I am focusing on my studies,” says Todani, a resident of West Bengal’s Raniganj who is preparing for the National Medical Entrance Examination (NEET).

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Not everyone feels the same way.

Manavi Soni, 17, a Madhya Pradesh resident who stays in the same paying guest (PG) accommodation as Todani, wants to return home at the earliest and be with her family “in this hour of crisis”.

The responses of Todani and Soni book-end the feelings of students in this bustling Rajasthan city, which, like the entire country, has suddenly fallen silent in the wake of the 21-day lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Some are anxious, worried about the well-being of their families. Others have calmed down after the initial panic triggered by the lockdown and are using the time at their disposal to sharpen their preparation for the competitive exams that stand postponed for now.

At peak season, Kota is home to 150,000 students, with private coaching centres dotting the streets that are usually teeming with engineering and medical school aspirants, according to Nidhi Prajapati, a teacher of peace studies in a private college in the city who has studied the Kota phenomenon.

Currently, around 40,000 students are stuck in the city, surviving on free food packets provided by hostel owners, philanthropic organisations and the institutes, says Naveen Maheshwari, the director of a coaching centre.

Students come to the city, which also finds itself in the news regularly for stress-related suicides, because the institutes here have acquired a reputation for prepping students for the Indian Institutes of Technology-Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) and NEET exams, which usually take place in April-May. This year, all exams have been indefinitely postponed.

Students have the option to choose a one-year preparatory course or one that lasts two years. They typically give their school-leaving examinations also from Kota.

“The coaching institutes are closed and we cannot go home. So there’s no option but to study, which is not a bad option. The JEE-Mains have been postponed and we get more time to study for it,” says Vishwendra Pratap Singh, an 18-year-old from Lucknow.

“The messes and roadside eateries are closed, but the coaching institutes, hostels and social organisations provide free food,” he says.

Several coaching institutes have come to the aid of those stranded, distributing food packets.

“Students in Kota are following the lockdown strictly, confining themselves in their hotels and PGs. We are taking care of their needs,” adds Maheshwari. He and the people who run other coaching institutes have urged hostels not to charge rent from students till the lockdown is over.

Hostels too are looking after the students and organising food for them, says Vishwanath Sharma, the former president of a body of hostel owners. The association is also regularly sanitising the hostels.

“I don’t have any financial crunch. Even if someone is lacking money to buy an essential, hostel owners are helping them,” says 18-year-old Stuti Agarwal, a Patna resident preparing for NEET.

Coaching institutes are making the best of the digital tools they already have, conducting online classes for students.

“We have a mentorship mobile app on which we address students’ problems — academic, psychological and health-related. Our faculty and counsellors reach out to them with help,” says Maheshwari.

“We have also launched a dedicated health helpline for students apart from general student helpline to resolve their health concerns,” he adds.

Rakesh Sharma, the manager of another institute, is reaching out to students on WhatsApp. “We have made WhatsApp groups of students and their faculty members for academic queries. We will soon launch a mobile app for these issues,” he says.

But for 18-year-old Mohammad Waseem, all these mean nothing. He wants to go back home to Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly.

“I stay in a PG. The owners went to Uttar Pradesh for a wedding and got stranded there due to the lockdown. Now, I am left to fend for myself,” he says. “Organisations are providing food to us, but I want to be with my parents.”

District collector Om Kasera has advises students not to venture outside. “There are strict government instructions on compliance, in which any kind of unnecessary movement is not allowed. So students are not allowed to return to their homes,” he adds.

On March 31, he sent a message to students over phone, asking them not to be depressed and also told them not to make any attempts to return to their homes during the lockdown.

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