The tiny city in Rajasthan famous for institutions offering coaching for and NEET is facing a dry spell due to COVID-19. The city that usually bustles with students has acquired a deserted look as most students have left for their hometown due to the crisis. As on March 2020, had a few lakh students which has gone down to 2000 students, who chose to stay back during the lockdown to prepare for the JEE and NEET that got over recently.
Kota administration has been using this time to bring in infrastructural changes. It has introduced ‘Oxyzone’- a hub of recreational activities, completed the construction of flyovers and over-bridges to decongest city roads to make life smoother for the students. “To offer recreational facilities, an ‘Oxyzone’ is being developed under the smart city project. In view of the pandemic, medical infrastructure have also been upgraded in city hospitals to ensure better health facilities,” says Ujjawal Rathore, district collector, Kota.
Currently, the district administration is focussing on measures to stop further spread. “Students will be back to routine, once the situation normalises and subsequently, allied businesses, such as hostels and eating joints will also revive. However, specific guidelines to coaching institutes, hostels, mess and other establishments serving students are yet to be issued. The city is waiting for Unlock 5.0 when the situation will change for better, he adds.
Changing learning pattern
The online mode of teaching in Kota has inspired institutes to expand their reach across the country and overseas.
Allen Career Institute in Kota, has been noticing a change in the learning pattern. Most students, as many as 70% want to return to offline learning mode, while 25% students are looking for hybrid learning and 5% chose online learning. The Institute plans to introduce hybrid model.
“We now plan to start online classes for students across the country, in addition to the offline classes. We are expanding our reach and have also introduced online classes for students in Gulf countries which has received a good response,” Naveen Maheshwari, director of Allen. There has been no decline in enrolment, but the institutions are worried of making a safe city for the youngsters preparing to return.
“Around 1.10 lakh students are enrolled in our course for the current academic year. Almost 40% of these applications were received post the lockdown. The cycle for the new semester usually starts in May-June, however, this year new applicants are expected to join now as the JEE, NEET have just been held.”
“Most students are complaining of feeling lonely in their hometowns as they are missing out on peer support and competitive learning. Most hostels here offer single rooms to students so that they can focus on their studies. We are more concerned about first-generation learners from villages, who solely bank on the articulate coaching model adopted by centres in Kota,” added Maheshwari.
Offline classes post-Diwali
Kota’s Rao IIT Academy is not in a hurry to bring back the students as their prime concern is the safety of the students and staff. Chairman BV Rao, is confident that students, 90% from rural India, will return after Diwali. “We will open the physical classroom post-Diwali,” says Rao. “Kota follows unique coaching methodology, has suitable infrastructure and gets strong support of the local administration as compared to other metro cities,” says Rao, a former IITian, who set up the Academy in 2008 for IIT-JEE coaching.
Once the state government and local authorities agree, the coaching centres may plan to allow selected students to study in Kota after September 30. Like other coaching institutes and ancillary businesses, the Academy too has suffered heavy revenue losses due to the pandemic. Several newly constructed malls, eating joints, PGs and mess etc. are grappling with the economic crisis.
The prospect of starting physical classes has made Vishal Joshi, director, Nucleus Foundation upbeat. “Every day we receive several calls from our students requesting to restart the offline classes. This certainly shows that students are eager to come to Kota for their studies.”
The pandemic has had a major impact on the functionality of the coaching institutes as many of them are not accustomed to the online teaching methodologies. Furthermore, Kota has a competitive advantage in JEE and NEET preparation which is hard to find in any other city. “The city is known for the spirit to fight the obstacles. Every year thousands of students come here and chase their dreams. The students have a winning streak which will help in regaining the footing once this pandemic gets over,” Joshi assures.