AN UGLY spat is on between two top private educational institutions of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with the Narayana Group of Educational Institutions accusing the Sri Chaitanya Institutions of luring its top students to join its centres, so as to enhance its reputation.
One parent has lodged a police complaint against Sri Chaitanya for enrolling his son under false pretence, while at least two others have withdrawn their children from its centres. The Narayana Group is owned by Andhra Pradesh Minister of Municipal Administration and Urban Development Dr P Narayana, while Yalamanchili Sridhar runs the Sri Chaitanya group.
Every year, approximately five lakh students from Andhra and Telangana sit for engineering and medical entrance exams, and the two institutions, which run schools, junior colleges (Classes 11 and 12), and coaching academies, boast of the highest success rate. In 2016, 43 of Narayana’s students and 33 of Chaitanya were among the top rankers in the JEE exam for IITs. Almost all institutes run by the two groups are residential and charge around Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.20 lakh per year as fees.
Bad blood has been brewing between Narayana and Sri Chaitanya since a joint venture started by the two in 2013, to end the intense competition between them to enrol promising students, fizzled out. Called the Chaitanya-Narayana (ChinNa), the venture was to manage all the centres run by the institutes.
In October this year, the Narayana Group accused managers of Sri Chaitanya colleges of luring its top students and those who had the potential to crack IITs by offering freebies. It cited two instances of three of its students being taken away by Sri Chaitanya managers from their homes immediately after the Diwali vacations.
“They are luring our performers to enhance their reputation,” General Manager of Narayana Group Vijay Bhaskar Reddy told The Indian Express. The Director of Sri Chaitanya Institutions, Y Sridhar, said these were all false allegations. “We don’t indulge in such things.”
S K Riyaz, the parent who has lodged a complaint against Sri Chaitanya officials at the Nellore 1 Town Police Station, said his son was studying in Class 10 at the Narayana IIT Olympiad School, and was among its top performers. “An official of Sri Chaitanya came after Diwali and convinced us that better IIT coaching would be given at a joint Chaitanya-Narayana centre at Hyderabad. Later I came to know it was not a joint centre but that of Sri Chaitanya. I asked my son to return, and lodged a complaint,” says Riyaz, who is a salesman.
Parents of two other students allegedly lured to join Sri Chaitanya centres have also recalled their children, said Nellore Deputy SP M Murali. “One parent (Riyaz) lodged a complaint that Sri Chaitanya managers kidnapped his son… The parents of the three students are angry because Sri Chaitanya managers allegedly told them they would be studying at a better ChiNa centre but it turned out to be a Sri Chaitanya centre. The case is under investigation,” the SP said.
Lately, the coaching institutes have also been in the news for putting too much pressure on students. Education ministers of both Andhra and Telangana have held separate meetings with junior colleges, particularly those run by Sri Chaitanya and Narayana, and issued guidelines to ease the pressure.
On October 13, a 15-year-old Intermediate student at the Sri Chaitanya College on the outskirts of Vijayawada killed himself allegedly as he was not able to cope with the course. On October 16, a 16-year-old girl who had got admitted at the Narayana College in Hyderabad for medical coaching disappeared from her uncle’s house in the city within a month, leaving behind a note describing how she was under pressure to perform. Later traced, she refused to go back to the college.
In his meetings with the junior colleges, Andhra Pradesh Education Minister G Srinivas Rao, who also visited institutes of Sri Chaitanya and Narayana, asked them to reduce the study hours. “Students are studying from 4.30 am till 11 pm, with two breaks of 15 minutes each and a lunch break of 30 minutes. They are stressed. We asked them to introduce an hour for yoga or sports, and TV. Each college must have a counsellor to help struggling students,” Rao said.
Telangana Deputy CM Kadiyam Srihari, who holds the education portfolio, also suggested setting up counselling centres.
Minister P Narayana, who owns the Narayana Group, said, “I am not aware about this issue. You can contact the administrators.”
“The competition between Narayana and Chaitanya is so intense that they push their students to their limits. It leads to sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression,” said G Hymavathi, chairperson of the Andhra Pradesh Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
In June 2016, the state secretary of the Telangana Parents Association, Pagadala Lakshmaiah, had come out with a report detailing life at such institutions. Lakshmaiah, a teacher, told The Indian Express, “Irrespective of the capabilities of their children, all parents send them to either Sri Chaitanya or Narayana. Teachers use all kinds of tactics to put pressure. The residential colleges are the worst. If a child is a little dull or slow, he is shifted to a different section where there are ‘others like him’. Teachers also chide and berate non-performers in front of everyone, put up marks of even weekly tests on notice boards. There is intense peer pressure. Students lose self-esteem. It is like a jail.”
B Nagaraj of Visakhapatnam says he sent his son, 16, to a residential college of Sri Chaitanya at Madhurawada in June. “My son told me he got up at 2 am to use the toilet and take a bath, to avoid long queues. He would then go back to sleep before classes began at 4 am.” After his son had spent four months at the college, Nagaraj pulled him out.