“I had told her that we can repair the TV when the classes start. Or the school will provide a tablet, or she can go and attend the classes from the home of one of the students in the neighbourhood…” Balakrishnan struggles to speak through his tears.
His daughter Devika, a Class 9 student in Kerala’s Malappuram district, killed herself on Monday, allegedly for being unable to attend the online classes that began on June 1.
Devika lived in the Mankeri Dalit colony in Walanchery. When she left home on Monday morning, her parents thought that she had gone to the neighbourhood, reported Asianet News. But by evening her dead body was found on the premises of an abandoned house in a nearby locality. It was found that she had taken a bottle of kerosene with her and immolated herself.
“She was very smart in studies, she grasped things easily. The classes weren’t available on the phone we have. Why should someone end their life for not being able to study. She had no other troubles,” her grandmother Kaliyamma says.
Devika had bagged the Ayyankali scholarship and was very anxious about missing her classes, the Asianet report further says. A suicide note was also found that said, “I am leaving”.
Balakrishnan is a daily wage labourer. The family has a television and a cable connection, but the television got damaged a few days ago. Balakrishnan couldn’t get the TV repaired as he had no income during the lockdown. Though Devika’s mother had also told her to attend the classes in the neighbourhood, she could not be consoled.
Her teachers too are shocked. "None of us can believe this.. She was very smart in her studies, was part of the Junior Red Cross team of the school and was the class leader too," Aneesh Kumar K, who was Devika's eighth standard class teacher told TNM.
Aneesh says, as per government instructions that teachers need to reach out to students who may not have TV or internet at home, he had directly spoken to Devika and told her that alternative arrangements would be made.
The Iribimbiliyam school was planning to show the virtual classes to students like Devika using a projector. "I talked to her twice over phone. We had collected details from all students who don't have access to smartphones or the internet and had handed over details to district level officers,"he added.
The state Education Minister C Raveendranath has asked for a report from the District Education Officer on the student’s death.
Kerala’s experimental virtual classes named First Bell began on June 1. The classes are available over the internet and on the government-run Kite Victers channel for students who don’t have access to the internet.
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