Samyuktha had scored 95 per cent in 12th class and joined a leading coaching institute in Hyderabad three months back to get through the national medical exam. She wanted to be a doctor.
On Monday, she killed herself, leaving behind a note that talked about her inability to cope with her studies.
In the last two months alone, more than 50 students have reportedly committed suicide across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Child rights activists who have been tracking these cases link many of them to students cracking up under pressure to perform.
Samyuktha’s father, a driver who had dreams for his daughter, recalls how she would, despite her high score, talk about her inability to focus after enrolling in the coaching institute. “I would only advise other parents to understand what your children are going through when you put them in such colleges,” he said.
Around the same time that he was grieving his loss, another video emerged of a student being mercilessly assaulted by his teacher in front of his classmates emerged from a private college at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.
On Wednesday, there were indications that the two states were getting around to acknowledging the size of the problem.
Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has taken the first step, meeting managers of top junior corporate colleges and warning them to set things in order.
According to new rules that have been introduced in both the states, students cannot be made to attend classes for more than 8 hours and explicitly ban teachers from verbal or physical assaulting students. It also requires them to keep trained counsellors at hand to guide students.
Child rights activist Achytha Rao said these institutions have had a free run for far too long.
“Criminal cases should be booked against these institutes. They have to provide safety and not torture the children mentally or physically. Only if a few institutions are shut down, they will wake up,” Mr Rao opines.
Last month, a 17-year-old who had jumped off the fifth floor after being humiliated by his teachers. “They said I am not good enough to be in the college and should roam on the street,” the teenager who had a miraculous escape later told NDTV.
But experts point out that commercial coaching centres are only one side of the challenge.
Psychologist Veerabhadra Kandla says even parents push children to crack exams and become success stories in education, at the cost of everything else. “It is easy to blame the schools and colleges and teachers, but what about the parents themselves?,” she says.
Students from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana do have an impressive track record when it comes to cracking entrance exams to premier institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology. Some where down the line, experts suggest, this remarkable performance might have ended up plying more pressure on others.
In 2016-17, students from these two states bagged 6,744 seats.
Experts say behind every success story, there are thousands others who don’t make the cut and face the trauma of letting their family down, plagued by self-doubt about passing exams, they fail life.