The Rajasthan Government has released a set of thorough guidelines to address the increasing number of student suicides including those in Kota.
The guidelines were formulated by a 15-member committee headed by Education Secretary Bhawani Singh Detha after a record number of suicides took place in Kota.
The state government consulted with coaching institutes and other stakeholders to develop these nine-page guidelines.
- The guidelines aim to restrict students below 9th grade from enrolling in coaching centres for medical and engineering entrance exams.
- Other suggestions include maintaining the confidentiality of test results and organizing batches alphabetically, rather than by students' ranks.
- The recent suicide of a 20-year-old NEET aspirant brought the total number of student suicides in Kota to 27. Nearly 200,000 students come to Kota each year to study for competitive exams such as JEE and NEET, causing concern among authorities.
- The government has directed the coaching centres to discourage student competition and stop glorifying batch toppers.
- While tests can continue, the results must be kept confidential. The centres are also advised not to distinguish between batchmates based on their performances.
- The guidelines further recommend not segregating students based on their ranks and introducing a policy for easy exit of students with a refund within 120 days if they or their parents feel any inconvenience or uneasiness.
- The government has also recommended practices to ease mental pressure on students, including facial recognition to prevent faking attendance, mandatory weekly holidays, not holding exams on the day following a holiday, and a code of conduct for faculty and hostels.
- A monitoring cell will be established in Kota and Sikar to oversee the data on all students studying in coaching institutes via a dedicated portal.
- Coaching centres are directed to appoint sufficient professional psychiatrists and counsellors, who should be recruited by NIMHANS or any psychology expert from a government medical college to check the students' psychological health regularly.
- The guidelines also include mandatory gatekeeper training for teachers, institute managers, other staff, and the wardens of hostels and paying guest accommodation to assess the students' behavioural changes and take preventive measures. The students will also have to be counselled regularly, with vulnerable students assessed during the counselling sessions for optional career counselling.
- The administration has taken several steps, including mandating the installation of an anti-hanging device in fans and asking coaching institutes not to hold exams for two months, to address the record spike in suicide cases in Kota.
Why Suicide cases are rising?
It appears that the primary reason for the increase in student suicides in Kota is the high-pressure environment that provides little to no relief for students. The human mind is not designed to function efficiently in such a situation for an extended period of time.
- As time goes on, the intense competition, lack of companionship and support among peers, the absence of parents, and unhealthy eating and sleeping habits, combined with financial stress and a lack of motivation towards their chosen career path, can all contribute to the decline of teenagers' mental stability.
What could be the solution?
The Rajasthan government has taken proactive steps towards addressing the crisis in Kota and has pledged to investigate and find solutions. However, quick-fix solutions like installing fans with springs, CCTVs, and punishing scapegoats will not bring about lasting change.
- What is needed is a more comprehensive and ongoing engagement with all stakeholders, including parents, educators, key institutions, policymakers, professionals, those with personal experiences, and young people who have been affected by these challenging times and survived.
- There is an urgent need for a deeper understanding of child psychology, including what constitutes a healthy lifestyle for the effective development of young minds, among coaching centre officials, teachers, parents, and students themselves.
- Education and awareness campaigns play a crucial role in destigmatizing mental health issues and promoting open, non-judgmental conversations.
- Recognizing warning signs of distress, such as extreme mood swings, social withdrawal, or expressions of suicidal thoughts, is equally important, and intervention should be immediate.
- Individuals who are struggling should be empowered to seek professional help without hesitation, as timely intervention can be life-saving.