The ‘glory’ of Kota is everywhere in India. The country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has called the city India’s ‘Kashidham of Education’. The city’s coaching business currently stands at Rs 120 billion. Students here have to spend most of their time studying to keep up with the curriculum. They are studying seven days a week. Some wake up at four in the morning to start studying, followed by another six-hour class throughout the day. They have an exam every two weeks.
About 300,000 students gather in Kota, Rajasthan, India every year. Coming here, they have to study 18 hours a day, the marks they get in the exam make them laugh and sad. Some of these students become India’s next generation of doctors or engineers. And for the rest, quota becomes another name for a ruined life.
In recent decades Kota has become known as the ‘Coaching Capital’ of India. About a dozen specialized institutions have been established here. Students come to the city every year to prepare for the entrance exams of the country’s most competitive medical and engineering colleges.
This year more than 2 million Indian students appeared for the Medical Admission Test (NET). They competed with each other for only one lakh 40 thousand seats. On the other hand, more than 1 million students have given the exam against the 10 thousand expensive seats of technology colleges called IITs.
The age of the students coming to study in Kota is between 17 and 20. They have to spend most of their time studying to keep up with the curriculum. They are studying seven days a week. Some wake up at four in the morning to start studying, followed by another six-hour class throughout the day. They have an exam every two weeks. Their numbers are re-opened and published.
Rani Kumari, 22, who is preparing for medical, says, ‘I don’t have time for friends or socialising. My book is my friend.’
‘It is the most stressed city in all of India,’ comments Shri Kumar Varma. The 19-year-old is preparing for the NET exam at Allen Career Institute, one of the biggest coaching institutes in the city. ‘Everywhere you look, you see desperate young people. Reaching the quota means you will either succeed or fail completely.’
The ‘glory’ of Kota is everywhere in India. The country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has called the city India’s ‘Kashidham of Education’. The city’s coaching business currently stands at Rs 120 billion. The ‘toppers’ who score the highest marks in the exams are celebrated like stars across the country, their pictures are plastered on billboards, they are awarded lakhs of rupees by their colleges. These colleges also compete with each other for the top position.
Apart from these there is also a black chapter. Quota-exaggerated exams, institutional, familial and social responsibilities on students — this brutal culture is coming to light recently.
So far 27 of the students coached in the city have lost their lives this year. This number is a record. Many Indian ministers have also demanded banning of coaching centers. The issue has been debated in the country’s parliament and this month the state government of Rajasthan introduced new policies to reduce the high suicide rate. Ceiling fans have been removed from the rooms. But any organization or teacher of Kota about these issues The GuardianDidn’t talk to.
However, despite the criticism of coaching centers, students and psychologists say that most of the pressure comes from home. Having a doctor or engineer in the family has long been considered high status in India. And for many parents, quota is the way to achieve this status.
Last September, a 17-year-old girl from Jharkhand hanged herself in her room. According to the police, the girl wrote in her diary: ‘If I leave Kota and go home, all my troubles will end. But I know, my mother will be sad, disappointed if I leave.’
Big coaching centers like Allen claim to have more than 50 psychologists and counselors for students. However, experts say that even if these students show signs of depression, parents dismiss them.
Kota coaching schools also cost a lot. To study here, a student has to pay a fee of one and a half lakh rupees per annum. Apart from this, an additional 30,000 rupees per month is required for food and other expenses. So the lower middle class families have to sacrifice a lot to send their children to these coachings.
Major coaching centers have started their operations in various cities across India. Representatives or teachers from Kota visit these branches and encourage parents to send their children for coaching. In many cases students are admitted to these coachings from the age of 11 to prepare for future exams.
The first helpline service in the country to provide psychological support has been started by ‘Kaan Patan Rai’. One can speak anonymously to the trained and experienced volunteers of ‘Kan Patan Rai’ for free. Apart from this, ‘Miner Bandhu’ helps with expert counseling services and advice for any mental health related problem both online and directly.