Protests have broken out in India after this poor teenage girl reportedly took her own life because she could not attend online classes as she did not have access to the internet.
The burnt body of 14-year-old Devika Balakrishnan was reportedly found near her home in Valancherry in the southern Indian state of Kerala with an empty bottle of kerosene nearby.
Local media report the girl is believed to have set herself on fire because she was struggling to keep up with online classes as she did not have access to the internet at home as her family were going through financial struggles.
Her father Balakrishnan, who has struggled to work recently due to illness, told local media his daughter had been depressed at not being able to join the classes easily.
He said: “She had been telling us to repair the television [so she could] attend the online class. But we had no money to repair the television and we have no smartphone.
The case has sparked protests in Kerala, with demonstrators saying the teenager’s death highlighted the inequalities in India’s lockdown, with poor students in rural areas less likely to be able to attend online classes.
Abhijith K.M., the head of the Kerala Students Union, said: “The government action has put the poor students under stress and pressure.”
India’s Minister for Education Professor C. Raveendranath, 64, said an investigation into the case would be launched and added: “We have conducted a survey about facilities at the homes of students and introduced neighbourhood classrooms for poor students who have no television or smartphones.
“We have launched the online classes on an experimental basis and will be re-telecasting all classes again and again. But it was unfortunate that the girl committed suicide.”
Some schools in India are beginning to reopen but many are still providing classes online, with the state government directing all local governments to create neighbourhood classrooms with televisions to display the classes for those who cannot access them at home.
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