Police and district officials striving to implement preventive measures as a surge in student suicides shakes the “Kota factory,” or coaching hub in India’s western state of Rajasthan, identify parental pressure as a significant factor contributing to poor mental health among students.
They point to the pressure from parents who convey to their children that there is no room for turning back, potentially pushing them toward extreme measures.
Top coaching institutes also claim that the majority of parents refuse to accept feedback provided to them and want their children to continue anyway in their preparation for engineering and medical entrance exams.
The comments by the stakeholders came on a day when a 16-year-old National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) aspirant allegedly hanged herself in the hostel room. She is the 23rd student in the coaching hub to have died in this manner, the highest number for any year. Last year, the figure was 15.
From reaching out to parents about possible signs of depression in their child, no aptitude for the particular subject or career, inability to live away from home, police and coaching institutes say their communications to parents about such issues are often met with resistance and majority of them refuse to accept these.
“Amid our interactions with the students, we found a student who was visibly depressed. I decided to call his father. The father refused to accept that there is an issue which needs his attention or intervention,” Kota ASP Chandrasheel Thakur told PTI.
“When I insisted him to come and take his son home for few days, the man kept giving me excuses that he will not get train reservation this soon. I had to finally threaten him with an FIR and that is when he agreed to come but I was left thinking that if it took me so much to convince him, certainly his son did not stand a chance… Parents tell their own children that there is no going back,” he added.
Thakur heads a student cell set up by to reach out to students and make attempts to detect early signs of stress and depression.
A representative of a top coaching institute who did not wish to be identified told PTI, “In the last one year, we have reached out to over 50 parents telling them clearly that their child is not fit for this exercise and needs to be with them. At least 40 of them did not agree to take their child back home or withdraw from coaching. Others who paid some heed to the advice, withdrew from our coaching but shifted them to other institute. Such is the rigidity.”
“We also organise counselling sessions and activities for parents but the attendance during such initiatives is very low. Parents often cite their inability to travel due to engagements or financial issues,” he said.
Over 2.5 million 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.
Packed schedules, cut-throat competition, constant pressure to do better, the burden of parents’ expectations and homesickness are among the common struggles of the students here.