Increase in the number of
suicides by students has become a major concern for engineering institutes in
India. Many students have succumbed to the competitive pressure they experience
in these institutes. The recent incident of discrimination leading to the death
of Rohith Vemula, a PhD scholar from Hyderabad, has sparked a debate of student
suicide and discrimination they face in the campus. To help students adjust to
the rigorous academic life at the IITs, an initiative called Peer-Assisted
Learning (PAL) is being conducted by IIT Gandhinagar (IITGn).

PAL is an initiative where
senior students of the institute assist newcomers adapt to the atmosphere at
IITGn. Two psychologists have been appointed by the institute to identify
students who may require assistance by having interactive sessions with them.
These students are provided a tutor to help them overcome their discomfort. Tutors
are students from the second and third year. Each tutor has two first
year students to take care of.

“It is important to develop a good rapport between the
students and their tutors. Tutors should not just be able to help newcomers
become independent by end of first year, they should also help them deal with
academic pressure on their own,” says Professor Kabeer Jasuja, who is the brain
behind PAL initiative.


Under the watchful eyes of the faculty members,
tutors are given freedom to assist the newcomers. Garima Chaudhary, a second
year student at IITGn who is also a PAL tutor, said, “Our interactions are
informal in the beginning. The help provided is not limited to academics; we
acquaint them to all activities that take place in the campus.”   

Jasuja added, “Most of the students who benefit from PAL are first generation
students in their family. They face problems coping with English, which is the
medium of instruction at IITGn.” Shubham Kumar, a first year student who hails
from Jharkhand, said, “We are staying away from our family for the first time.
With a senior to guide us, we feel assured. The tutors don’t just comfort us,
they also respond to the queries our parents have.”

 With increasing number of
students falling prey to hectic schedules, an initiative that encourages a
healthy interaction amongst the students is worth emulating in engineering

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