NEW DELHI: From Yoga sessions and Zumba classes to 24X7 helpline, and mental wellness workshops to a dedicated team of counsellors on campus — coaching institutes in Kota say they take multiple measures to help students get through the stress and anxiety of preparing for competitive exams.
The coaching hub of Kota is back in focus after three students died allegedly by suicide last week. Packed schedules, cut-throat competition, constant pressure to do better and homesickness is what many students preparing for competitive exams in Kota deal with every day. These factors can often trigger anxiety and lead to “weak moments” for students, says Pragati Gupta, a NEET aspirant from Madhya Pradesh.
Sandeep Tiwari from Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah told PTI that the 10-month preparatory programme is so hectic that it is not possible to visit home during breaks. “Even if there are breaks, there is always a fear of lagging behind. It is like running on a treadmill and you cannot miss a single step. If you miss two days of classes, you lag behind by two weeks and there is no going back,” he said. Tiwari said he hasn’t had the time to visit his family since he came here in April.
Animesh Kumar, a 17-year-old from Motihari in Bihar who is preparing for a second attempt at the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) said “Study stress is real. When a student fails to keep pace with things and the backlog of lectures keeps growing, he starts blaming himself and his way of studying and gets stressed and depressed,”
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Over 2 lakh students are currently enrolled in various coaching centres here. Another student Afzal said he feels the added pressure of ensuring that his parents’ money does not go waste. “I thought that I will be able to focus more on my preparation once I move here but it is a different world altogether. Now not only do I have to manage everything on my own but I also keep thinking that my parents have invested money and what if I am unable to deliver,” he said.
The coaching institute Allen, which currently has over 1.5 lakh students in its various medical (NEET) and engineering (JEE) entrance preparatory courses, runs special programmes such as “Tum Hoge Kamyab” (you will succeed) and “Wings of Wisdom”, besides regular yoga sessions and zumba classes, for the mental wellbeing of its students.
“We have a dedicated helpline which works round the clock and over 50 concerned calls from students or parents are addressed daily through it,” said Dr Harish Sharma, Principal Counsellor and Student-Behaviour Expert at Allen. “For every 10 students we have a supervising student who is called as ‘buddy’. The job of the buddy is to keep a check on the mental health of the group and inform the teachers if there are any symptoms or signs like someone is not eating properly for a few days, not coming out of room or attending classes or is not talking to his or her parents,” he told PTI.
He said professional counsellors available at the institute are roped in once the teachers have an idea about any student. “However, in certain cases where we realise that mere counselling will not help and the child needs proper psychiatry treatment, we inform parents to take the child with them for sometime and work on their mental health,” he added. The coaching behemoth also organises counselling session for parents to sensitise them about how to keep in touch with their child, but not create any pressure on them. “It is a very thin line,” Sharma said.
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“If parents do not keep in touch with their wards, it’s obvious they will not notice any change in their behaviour and will not know when their child needs help. On the other hand, if parents keep in constant touch, they often add to the burden and stress of students by reminding them of their struggles in sending the child to Kota or add the burden of their expectations.”
Notwithstanding such measures, students sometimes get trapped into the cycle of depression with multiple factor contributing to it. According to police and district administration records, at least 14 students studying in coaching centres in the city died by suicide this year. No student suicide was reported in 2021 when the coaching centres here were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and students attended online classes from their homes. The number stood at 18 in 2019 and 20 in 2020.
Of the three students who died by suicide last week, NEET aspirant Ankush Anand (18) from and JEE aspirant Ujjwal Kumar (17) — both from Bihar — were found hanging from ceiling fans in their respective rooms at their paying guest (PG) accommodation on December 12, according to police. The third student, Pranav Verma (17), a NEET aspirant from Madhya Pradesh, allegedly consumed a poisonous substance in his hostel on December 11. In the current year, a record 2 lakh students are enrolled and studying in various coaching institutions in Kota.
Naveen Mittal, the President of Kota Hostel Association, said similar measures are in place at the hostels too to help students cope with stress and anxiety. “Since each of the students live in a single room accommodation to help them study better, it is not possible for the peers to always keep a check manually but we ensure that wardens regularly talk to the students. Special fun zones have been created in the hostels for students’ recreation. Meditation sessions are also regularly conducted,” he said.
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(This report has been published as part of the auto-generated syndicate wire feed. Apart from the headline, no editing has been done in the copy by ABP Live.)
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