From mothers on sabbatical to grandparents and homemakers, many people are choosing to shift to the coaching hub Kota with their children to ensure they are not stressed while preparing for entrance exams and do not take any extreme step.
Neeru Devi from Bihar’s Sitamarhi has shifted to Kota, the country’s coaching hub, at the age of 80 to be with her grandson who is preparing for the IIT entrance exam at an institute here.
“We would not have been at peace back home,” she said, shedding light on the mounting pressure faced by students preparing for medical and engineering entrance exams here.
The year 2023 saw the highest number of student suicides — 22 so far — with two ending their lives in a gap of a few hours on August 27. Last year, the figure was 15.
Packed schedule, cut-throat competition, constant pressure to do better, the burden of parents’ expectations and homesickness, are among the common struggles of the students here.
Many parents are now averse to putting their children in hostels. Instead, they are renting accommodation in Kota and staying with their children by even taking sabbaticals.
Sandhya Dwivedi from Madhya Pradesh’s Satna is staying with her son here while her husband manages other responsibilities back home.
“Now I worry less. My son studies at night… I give him tea or coffee. He knows I am here to talk to him and comfort him. He was ill twice this month and I was here to take care of him. I want him to crack JEE but I don’t want to lose him in the process… we have been hearing about student suicides and we cannot take that risk,” she said.
Over two-and-half lakh students move to Kota annually to prepare for competitive exams such as the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) for engineering and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical colleges.
Neeru Devi said, “We have been hearing all kinds of news. So we decided to not keep him in a hostel but to stay with him… Now I am staying with him and if he doesn’t perform well or doesn’t feel comfortable, his mother will come here.”
Shivani Jain, a software engineer in Chandigarh, has decided to take a sabbatical to be with her daughter preparing for NEET. “She is in class 11 now. Till she completes her class 12 and ultimately cracks the exam, I will be in Kota with her. If I leave her in a hostel, I won’t be at peace at home.
“At times children hesitate to call home and talk about their stress. But since I am here, I will be able to notice any changes in her behaviour and comfort her. My husband is in Chandigarh with our son who is in class five,” she said.
Kumari Shimpi from Bihar’s Jahanabad is living in Kota with her two children. “My son is preparing for JEE and my daughter for NEET. With me here, at least they won’t feel homesick. Bogged down by studies, if they do not get good food or have to do their own laundry, they won’t be comfortable and I will be worried if they take some extreme step in pressure.
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“I tell them that if you don’t crack the exam, we will go back but I will be here as long as you are here,” she said. Battling to keep a check on student suicides, Kota Police say it is very important that parents acclimatise their children to the struggles of the city so they do not feel lost here.
“We understand that not all parents can be here. But when they come to drop their children to Kota they should stay with them for at least a month to acclimate them to the place, the schedule and the whole situation… especially for those who are going to live away from their parents for the first time,” said Chandrasheel Thakur, the additional superintendent of police, Kota.
The district administration has asked coaching institutes to stop conducting routine tests for students preparing for NEET and other competitive exams for the next two months in the wake of the latest suicides.