In the dog-eat-dog eat world today, extreme competition is the norm more than the exception. From a young age, children have been instilled with the belief that doing well in academics is the path to a good career and life. Coaching centres have been sprung up all over the country promising to turn any student into a scholar and guarantee admission into the prestigious IITS and IIMs. But what happens when students can’t cope up? Or when too many students vie for too few seats? It leads to frustration and sadly some students cannot deal with this. Some students have even gone as far as taking their own life. Kota is famed for their coaching centres and they can charge upto 1 lakh for admission. The ‘coaching factory’ also sees a large amount of suicides. Should they be blamed?

“I want to start a new life … Mummy, Papa..please, sorry”. This quote from the suicide note of a 19-year old student, preparing for competitive exams in Kota, who hung himself on 22nd January, speaks volumes about the extent of competitiveness in our society. As if 19 suicides in 2015 was not enough, 2 more students took the extreme step in 2016 while the authorities were busy blaming and undertaking prevention measures, which are clearly inefficient.

On hearing the suicide toll mounting up to 78 in past five years (!), we understand that something is going horribly wrong. And coaching centers have come under major scrutiny for the apparent ‘overburdening academic structure’ which everyone has found comfort in thinking that to be the sole cause. But let’s face it – coaching centers are still what they always were! The fault lies elsewhere.

Parents, counsellors, and psychiatrists, everyone is being asked about what they think and what should be done. But amidst the hullabaloo, students (affected by such incidents) are left forgotten and unquestioned. So we decided to ask a few students, if the coaching centers are really to blame for the increasing suicides, or is there are other reasons for such extreme steps?

Aditya who is a repeater himself, puts an interesting point. “Students arrive to campuses as toppers (at a city, state or national level), but here they meet hundreds of students as bright as them. This builds up pressure. One who is not accustomed to scoring as “low” as 80-85% back in school, becomes discouraged on being ranked 700-900 among a thousand. Many students also lack the patience to keep fighting. Failures in weekly tests, is the end of the world for them. I blame parents completely for this. My parents taught me that failure once a while is okay. Nobody is going to judge. But not everyone’s that lucky.”

“Study material is same for everyone. The batches are segregated according to merit, but then that’s what motivates us! I believe other factors like personal turmoil, bullying, homesickness, love affairs or any psychological reason is what adds up to fatal tendency, as we cannot discuss these with our parents or teachers. It is important that coaching centers address such issues amongst youngsters. ” says, Prakhar Sharma, 18-year old, who is preparing for medical entrance exams. He claims that even the toppers experience pressure, but the method of dealing with such anxiety and pressure is unfortunately not taught by anyone.

Brijesh Yogi, a 17-year old is preparing for his first entrance exam. He doesn’t blame the coaching centers for adding pressure on students, instead these methods have made students deliver good results. “If not for this academic structure, my parents would not have sent me here. Whenever I feel exhausted, I try to indulge in recreation. But that is exactly what is not happening in Kota. Infact, it is discouraged by many parents. After studying for 18 hours, all I see is drunkards on roads, or people fighting. There is not much to do, besides studies. This hinders relaxation, leaving us perplexed.” He believes the students who killed themselves had nowhere to go, or no one to open up to.

Rajiv*, another student hailing from Bikaner says, “One student who killed himself was in my batch. We were not friends, but as far as I remember, until the suicide, he did not seem out-of-place. We were numb on hearing the news. It is as if, now you don’t know which face from your class is going to commit suicide.”

As Aman, a 21-year old student puts forward a point, “Many students hail from poor backgrounds, where their parents have taken huge loans for their aspirations. Consistent lagging in studies makes them feel guilty. They know they cannot compensate the financial loss of their parents. So they think death as the best option. Nobody prepares them mentally before sending them. An Engineering degree or admission in medical college is not everything in life. There are many ways to become successful.”

It is an alarming fact that at the age of writing love letters, youngsters are penning suicide notes. Sure coaching centers share the blame, but to a small extent. Many students are faint-hearted, unable to face disappointment of their parents and themselves. When their self-confidence gets hit, many get yelled at, they experience rejection or indifference instead of assurance, which eventually exhausts them to an extent, where they take such a horrific step. Coaching centres have become the punching bag, but actually, it is the parents and students who should improvise, and take self-improvement measures. After all, in the first place, coaching centers became effective and famous for this ‘overburdening academic structure’ only.

*Names changed to protect identities.

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