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No concept of friendship, every aspirant a competitor, say students and experts

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KOTA, Aug 24: There are no friends but only competitors in the country’s coaching capital popularly
known as “Kota factory”, say students and experts as the government struggles to keep a check on the
spate of suicides among engineering and medical aspirants.
Authorities say 20 students preparing for competitive exams in Kota have ended their lives so far in 2023
— highest for any year. Last year, the figure was 15.
Battling with packed schedules, cut-throat competition, constant pressure to do better, burden of
parents’ expectations and homesickness, students say they often find themselves alone with no one to
talk to and share their feelings with.
Experts warn that parents also see friendships as potential distractions for their wards and discourage
them from making friends when they are here for coaching.
“There is no concept of friendship here…there are only competitors. Every student sitting next to you is
seen as an additional burden to fight with. Unlike schools and colleges, nobody shares notes among
peers here because everybody is seen as a threat who might take one’s seat away in the college of his or
her choice,” Ridhima Swamy, a NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test ) aspirant from Madhya
Pradesh, told PTI.

Mansi Singh, a Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) aspirant from Odisha, who has been here for the last
two years said life in Kota feels like one is on a “treadmill”.
“It is like running on a treadmill. You only have two options either to get down or keep running. You
cannot take a break, cannot slow down but only keep running,” she added.
Another student, who did not wish to be identified, said every moment not spent on studying is
considered “wasted” which triggers a cycle of guilt and ultimately impacts the performance causing
further stress.
Sharing an incident, the student from Maharashtra said, “One day I received a call from the mother of
one of the boys here who lives in the same hostel. She was worried that she was not able to reach her
son and wanted me to check on him as he had not been attending classes for a week. I assured her that I
will go to his room, once back to the hostel..I went back and got busy studying. While his mom kept
calling me, I was busy preparing for a test the next day that I was restless that I would lose time and
would not be able to prepare well”.
“His mom figured out someone else and the issue was sorted but later I felt guilty that what if he was
unwell, what if he had taken the extreme step and all I could think was that I will get less time to
prepare for a test…such is the pressure here…I couldn’t sleep for days when the realisation hit me,” he
said.
Dinesh Sharma, Head of Psychology Department, Government Nursing College, said students neither
open up nor develop empathy for their peers here.
“The first instructions from the parents when they drop their kids here is…do not waste time in
friendships, you are here to study. When parents see it negatively, students feel that it is something
wrong and should not be done.
“Every coaching has counsellors now but these students are apprehensive about opening up with them
thinking their parents might be informed…so friends can be really helpful but here those who make
friends are not seen in a good light,” he said.
His thoughts were echoed by Kota Additional SP Chandrasheel Thakur, who said every student shows
some symptoms when he/she is stressed and since parents are far away, his or her friends will be the
first to know.
“There are no joint exercises in coaching, it is an individual journey and these students often end up
feeling lonely. There have been times when some hostel mates have informed us about someone
locking their door from inside and we have intervened timely. Majority of the students here are living
away from the family for the first time… having friends can be very helpful, it should be encouraged,” he
said.
For a student preparing for competitive exams here, the academic schedule would typically include
classes for seven or eight hours from Monday to Saturday with a brief interval for refreshment,
sometimes doubt sessions and remedial classes on Sundays, at least three internal tests during a week
and one major test on the last Sunday of a month.
Often bogged down with the fast paced curriculum and the programme structure, students say they are
always racing against time and even a day’s break can push them behind thousands of other students.
However, the recent cases of student suicides has rekindled the debate about whether enough
measures are being taken to ensure healthy competition among students.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot last week directed officials to form a committee to provide
suggestions on preventing suicides. The committee will comprise all stakeholders, including
representatives from coaching institutes, parents and doctors, and it will submit its report in 15 days.
(PTI)

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