India: Teenager commits suicide over inability to access online classes

by Maruf Adedeji

A fourteen-year-old girl has committed suicide in her family home in Southern part of India.

It was reported that the teenager was found dead on Monday June 1, 2020, the first day of the new school term.

The deceased, who was known as Devika Balakrishnan, was a daughter of a family wage worker in Kerala district in the world’s second most populous country.

Students have protested in Kerala, Southern India in reaction to the death report of Devika who killed herself because she could not access internet for her online classes.

Indian authorities closed schools across India on 25 March, 2020. The closure is one of the lockdown measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 outbreak.

The government’s recently introduced online education has become inaccessible to millions of children as more than four million of them could not afford to access internet.

Among children affected was Devika, a 14-year-old girl who reportedly set herself ablaze, an incident which later claimed her life.

Indian media reports said the teenager was first declared missing from her house on Monday after which her burnt body was found near her house with an empty bottle of kerosene near her dead body.

According to the media reports, the girl’s father said there was a faulty television at home. Although her late daughter told him it needed to be repaired, he could not afford to do so neither could he afford a smartphone.

“I don’t know why she did this. I said we could look for alternatives, like taking her to my friend’s house,” the father said.

“The girl’s mother just gave birth a couple of weeks ago while the family was not financially stable,” noted an NDTV network report.

The Kerala Students Union joined the protest to express their solidarity against the untimely death of the poor girl. They also alleged the government action was responsible for the teenager’s plight citing the stress and pressure that come with accessing the online classes by children with no means.

The protesters blamed government for their negligence in ensuring all students could afford and access the online education.

“The government should make computers available on interest-free loans in order to avoid recurrence of this sad news in future,” Abhijith KM, head of Kerala Students Union told Reuters news agency by phone from Kozhikode district.

The Malappuran police said they have responded by restoring peace to northern Malappuran district, where the deceased girl was from.

In recent times, India is gradually easing the lockdown.

While schools still remain closed in India, Kerala state, where the incident happened, started the new academic year on Monday through online and televised-broadcast classes.

Kerela’s education authorities have expressed their displeasure over the teenager’s death and directed an incident investigation into the reported suicide.

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