Thursday, Jun 01, 2023

Yoga, Zumba Classes, Mental Wellness In Focus As Student Suicides Shake Kota's 'Factory Settings'

Yoga, Zumba Classes, Mental Wellness In Focus As Student Suicides Shake Kota's 'Factory Settings'

From Yoga sessions and Zumba classes to 24X7 helpline, and mental wellness workshops to a dedicated team of counsellors on campus

Coaching Institute(Representative Image)
Coaching Institute(Representative Image) Photo: S.R. Pearson Lenekar

From Yoga sessions and Zumba classes to 24X7 helpline, and mental wellness workshops to a dedicated team of counsellors on campus -- coaching institutes in Kota say they take multiple measures to help students get through the stress and anxiety of preparing for competitive exams.

The coaching hub of Kota is back in focus after three students died allegedly by suicide last week.

Prominent coaching institute Allen, which currently has over 1.5 lakh students in its various medical (NEET) and engineering (JEE) entrance preparatory courses, runs special programmes such as "Tum Hoge Kamyab" (you will succeed) and "Wings of Wisdom", besides regular yoga sessions and zumba classes, for the mental wellbeing of its students.

"We have a dedicated helpline which works round the clock and over 50 concerned calls from students or parents are addressed daily through it," said Dr Harish Sharma, Principal Counsellor and Student-Behaviour Expert at Allen.

"For every 10 students we have a supervising student who is called as 'buddy'. The job of the buddy is to keep a check on the mental health of the group and inform the teachers if there are any symptoms or signs like someone is not eating properly for a few days, not coming out of room or attending classes or is not talking to his or her parents," he told PTI. 

He said professional counsellors available at the institute are roped in once the teachers have an idea about any student. 

"However, in certain cases where we realise that mere counselling will not help and the child needs proper psychiatry treatment, we inform parents to take the child with them for sometime and work on their mental health," he added.

The coaching behemoth also organises counselling session for parents to sensitise them about how to keep in touch with their child, but not create any pressure on them.

"It is a very thin line," Sharma said. "If parents do not keep in touch with their wards, it's obvious they will not notice any change in their behaviour and will not know when their child needs help. On the other hand, if parents keep in constant touch, they often add to the burden and stress of students by reminding them of their struggles in sending the child to Kota or add the burden of their expectations."

Typically, the day begins as early as 5.30 am for the students with their first class at 7 am. Coaching institutes have put in place a mechanism to let parents know of their child has attended the class.

As soon students exit their hostel, they are supposed to mark an exit using the bimetric attendance system which automatically sends a message to parents that the child has left from the hostel. A similar message is sent to parents when the child enters the coaching institute.

At Resonance, another prominent coaching institution, every student has a mentor to help him or her deal with academic and non-academic issues through the coaching journey. 

"We encourage students to not only discuss their academic concerns but also non-academic issues which are causing stress or anxiety. Yoga sessions and concentration exercises are also among the activities that are encouraged among the students," said RK Agarwal, the institute's Managing Director and Academic Head.

Notwithstanding such measures, students sometimes get trapped into the cycle of depression with multiple factor contributing to it. 

According to police and district administration records, at least 14 students studying in coaching centres in the city died by suicide this year. No student suicide was reported in 2021 when the coaching centres here were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and students attended online classes from their homes.

The number stood at 18 in 2019 and 20 in 2020.

Of the three students who died by suicide last week, NEET aspirant Ankush Anand (18) and JEE aspirant Ujjwal Kumar (17) -- both from Bihar -- were found hanging from ceiling fans in their respective rooms at their paying guest (PG) accommodation on December 12, according to police.

The third student, Pranav Verma (17), a NEET aspirant from Madhya Pradesh, allegedly consumed a poisonous substance in his hostel on December 11.

In the current year, a record 2 lakh students are enrolled and studying in various coaching institutions in Kota.

Naveen Mittal, the President of Kota Hostel Association, said similar measures are in place at the hostels too to help students cope with stress and anxiety.

"Since each of the students live in a single room accommodation to help them study better, it is not possible for the peers to always keep a check manually but we ensure that wardens regularly talk to the students. Special fun zones have been created in the hostels for students' recreation. Meditation sessions are also regularly conducted," he said.