VIJAYAWADA: At Sri Chaitanya Junior Colleges, the day starts at 5 am. “That’s when the sirens begin blaring,” says Siddharth, who recently moved out of the group’s Poranki campus here.
“We’re beaten with sticks if we aren’t up in five minutes. At times, the wardens walk over us to get us out off our beds. We’re humiliated, harassed and live in constant fear. How can you study in the middle of anxiety attacks?”
The 17-year-old says his scores may be enviable, but he feels empty. “I’m a zero. I know nothing. That’s what rote learning does to you.” Despite belonging to the city, Siddharth’s parents insisted he join the residential campus to give studies his undivided attention. “That never happened,” says the day scholar.
Once they’re up, a quick bath and breakfast later, the students brush up on what was taught the previous day before classes begin at 8 am. Save for the one-hour lunch, there is no break until 10 pm when classes are over and they head back to their hostel.
Each tiny room is crammed with eight or so cots and the little space left is a zig-zag of wires used to hang clothes for drying.
“There are many rooms with fans that don’t work, so the occupants go over to other rooms. At times, around 16 students sleep in a room that is too small for even half the number,” says Siddharth. He compares hostels with jails where the strong prey on the weak for a better share of the painfully inadequate facilities.
“Fights break out over something as silly as who gets more space on a single cot. Some bullies don’t even do their laundry, they rag others into doing it for them. Show any sign of weakness and that’s the end of you.”
The second-year Inter student believes it’s of no use complaining to the wardens or the management. “The wardens themselves drink and smoke with unruly students. And members of the management are dangerous,” his shoulders droop as he talks.When his parents requested that his hostel fees be returned when he was moving out, the management allegedly threatened to slap false cases against Siddharth, accusing him of stealing money from the college.“We didn’t dare raise another word.” Of the Rs 50,000 that had to be returned, Siddharth and his parents walked away with a measly Rs 5,000.
The principal of a Narayana Junior College, who did not want his name to be quoted, said: “If we are getting good ranks, it is because of the system in force now. The other side of the coin is that it is leading to stress among students. Now that the state government has directed us to ensure that stress levels be brought down, our management will initiate measures accordingly. We will balance work and leisure in such a way that there will not be undue stress and at the same time, the students will not lag behind in studies.”