THE DEATH BY suicide of two young boys on the same day at Kota in Rajasthan, bringing the total number of such deaths to 23 so far this year, has brought the focus on the extreme pressure put by parents, relatives and peers on youngsters to join prestigious engineering and medical institutions.
Kota, which has emerged as one of the leading towns for coaching institutes in the country, has been witnessing progressive increase in the number of suicides and attempts at suicide over the year.
According to a Rajasthan government survey, over 2,25,000 students stay in rented premises at any given time in the town for coaching to clear examinations like Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) and National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).
These students, among the other 20 lakh students from across the country, compete for just 17,000 seats in public sector engineering institutions like IITs and 1.4 lakh seats in medical colleges across the country.
The prospects of these students making to the leading institutions are just two per cent and yet the students go through a gruelling routine amidst the high expectations of their parents and others.
The attempt of the coaching institutes to produce the maximum number of “successful” candidates adds to the pressure on the students who are made to sit for exams every week.
Evidently the inability to bear the high pressure and lurking fear that they would not be able to clear the examinations is what is leading an increasing number of youngsters to attempt suicide.
A survey conducted by an independent organisation revealed that a vast majority of those who had committed suicide or had attempted to commit suicide were from poor or marginal families and from small towns and villages mainly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Most had taken heavy loans in the hope to make it to prestigious institutions and ensuing a good jobs.
Another fact brought forward by the survey was that half of those who committed suicide at Kota were minors and that over three fourths were males.
Over half of them had committed suicide within the first six months of their joining the classes.
The greed of the coaching institutions to admit as many number of students as possible, with no serious attempt to check the potential or ability of the students seeking admission, also leads to frustration and anxiety among some of the students who are unable to cope up with the pressure.
With large number of students packed in classrooms, there is little connect between the teacher and individual students leading to lack of communication and the inability of the teacher to counsel students.
In the past the coaching institutes and district administration had been taking knee jerk actions like putting springs or nets on fans in the rooms, hanging being the most common method for committing suicide, but these steps made little impact.
The number of suicides this year are the highest in any year with four months still to go. Last year the number for the entire year was 14.
In response to the criticism after the twin suicides last week, the state government has declared that no coaching institute would conduct any exam for the next two months. That is hardly a solution.
What the government must do is to ensure that these institutions provide psychological counsellors to regularly guide and advise students who might be prone to take take such steps.
Any one contemplating suicides begins to show signs much earlier and therefore the teachers and students should be sensitised to look for these early signs.
It is also important for the coaching centres to hold an entrance exam and admit only those students who have some potential to make it.
There is need to decrease the pressure on young students who are forced to excel both in the Board and the competitive exams. Parents too need counselling that getting their wards into these prestigious institutions is not the only option for a successful life.
At the same time the government must work towards setting up more quality institutions like IITs, IIMs and AIIMS to provide more opportunities for the youth.
The middle class is burgeoning in the country and with that the ambition and desire to improve quality of life must match the resources available to make their dreams a reality.
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