High on aspirations and dreams to make it big, each year thousands of students from across India move to Kota, one of the major coaching hubs in the country. With a hope to get admissions in IITs and prestigious medical colleges, the students undergo rigorous coaching involving 14-16 hours of intense study sessions every day.
Most of the aspiring students feel overwhelmed with the pressure of competition and being away from their families makes it difficult for them to deal with this stress. And at dire times, this stress coerces them into taking extreme steps in hopes of a way out.
As per Kota District Administration statistics there has been a rise in student suicides, and 77 students have died since 2013.
Concerned at the alarming levels of suicide cases in Kota and across India, a group of IIT alumni are converting city’s hostels into ‘Happiness Hostels’.
Speaking to The Better India (TBI), Nikita Jain, an alumna associated with this project says, “With the insane rat race, students tend to have an emotional breakdown, and when they cannot share their problems, the depression mounts. Our main objective of Happiness Hostels is to tell the students that failing or scoring less is not the end of the world and they are not alone.”
What are Happiness Hostels and How Do they Work?
Explaining the concept of Happiness Hostels in one line, Nikita says, “These hostels aim at giving easy access to facilities to students.”
Hostels facilities include internet, books, indoor and outdoor games, cultural activities, and even counselling. These facilities give the students a much-needed break. The premises also include a social hall where students can sit and interact in their leisure time.
For students who wish to share their problems and issues, each hostel also employs two caretakers, and a team of doctors is also available 24/7 in case of emergencies.
Along with introducing many facilities, these hostels also focus on providing quality food and work on maintaining overall hygiene.
Last year, the 12-member team of former IITians had also distributed ‘happiness guide’ booklet containing discount coupons of restaurants, juice centres, coffee shops, and stationery shops among others, to one lakh coaching students. This initiative would save these students around Rs 20,000 every month.
So, has the happiness index increased?
“When I came to Kota for the first time, my only worry was allotting my time to buy groceries and other household requirements. Plus, I had to make sure that I don’t go beyond my monthly expenditure. Managing studies along with other work could get stressful at times. Last year, when they released the Happiness guide book with discounts and included all facilities within or around the hostel, it was a relief for me. Every month, I manage to save money because of discounts, and the fact that I don’t have to travel far to buy things was an added relief,” says Satvik, one of the students.
Besides befriending classmates who help me in my studies, I have also made friends whom I can confide in. At times, it does get overwhelming, but indoor games help me get that much needed break, says Anurag Rai, another student.
Arish Waradh feels the happiness programme is a great initiative. He says that usually when it comes to entrance exam coaching places there are no recreational activities provided to avoid distractions. But here, they are reducing the pressure by providing all the facilities.
“Staying away from the family and spending most of my hours studying without immediate outcomes does get frustrating at times. The newly introduced indoor games have helped me make friends who have now become family,” says Nikhil who moved to Kota last year.
There are more than 2,500 hostels in Kota that house close to two lakh students.
The initiative has roped in 600 hostels, and of them, 100 hostels have already been converted into Happiness Hostels. The rest of them are in the process. Happiness Hostels are on the right track. We wish them success in their endeavours to make the lives of students easier.
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(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)