10/02/2020, 12.27
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Students commit suicide because they don't have a smartphone for online lessons

by Nirmala Carvalho

Due to Covid-19, many schools have only distance learning, but poor families cannot buy the tools needed for their children. The desperation of the parents following their children’s suicides. The work of the St. Catherine of Siena School and Orphanage, Welfare Society for Destitute Children.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - In the era of Covid-19, studies and lessons have moved online, however, not everyone in India is privileged enough to have a stable Internet connection or to have access to a smartphone or laptop. As a result, many students are unable to attend classes due to a lack of these resources and lose education.

A 15-year-old girl committed suicide because she did not have a smartphone to attend online classes. The incident took place in the village of Ond, 10 km from the city of Karad, in the district of Satara, Maharashtra, on 23 September. The victim, Sakshi Abasaheb Pol, “was a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) student with Pandit G.B. Pant High School nearby and in recent months had been asked to take online courses due to the pandemic,” explained investigating officer, Balkrishna Jagdale.

The mother of the deceased child, who works as a farm laborer in the village, could not afford a smartphone for her daughter as the family's income was barely enough to survive. Specifically, Sakshi had been asking for a smartphone in recent months, but her mother kept persuading her to "wait until we have enough money". On September 23, she made the same request again, but her mother expressed her total helplessness. Soon after, Sakshi hanged herself in the house and was found dead by her family and neighbors. Sakshi joins the long list of young students from very poor families who cannot buy smartphones to meet the requirements of online education.

In early September, a 20-year-old university student in West Bengal committed suicide in the Jalpaiguri district, because, police said, she was distressed that she could not afford a smartphone to attend online classes. Jayanti Bauli, a first-year student at Mal College, hanged herself at her home in the village of Dabripara in the Saripukuri area on Monday night, said Dilip Sarkar, an officer in charge of the Kranti police outpost. Her father Aviram Bauli told police that he is a day labourer and somehow manages to make ends meet and even pay for his daughter's school fees. "My daughter has been wanting a smartphone for some time for online lessons. She was upset that I couldn't get it. But if I knew she was going to do something like this, I would have borrowed some money and bought her a phone,” Aviram said as he collapsed.

In August, in Karnataka's Mysuru, an X-class student from Saagade village committed suicide because her parents were unable to buy her a smartphone for online lessons. In Kerala, in June, a class X girl committed suicide: “she had a TV at home, but it didn't work. She told me it needed to be fixed, but I couldn't get it done. I couldn't even afford a smartphone, "said the girl's father, a Scheduled Caste day worker with little income during the lockdown." I don't know why she did it. I said we could look into options, like going to a friend's house, "he said.

Another 16-year-old student reportedly committed suicide in Assam's Chirang district for not being able to attend classes online because he didn't have a smartphone. The Grade 10 student was reportedly upset that he was unable to take part in his school's online classes and exams.

In July, a Grade 10 student in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu committed suicide as his father couldn't buy him a smartphone to use for his school's online classes during the lockdown. Another boy, who was studying at Vallalar high school near the city of Panruti, killed himself at his home. In his complaint, the boy's father, Vijaykumar, a cashew farmer from Siruthondamadhevi village, said: "Moving to Class 10, my son asked for a cell phone for online lessons. I told him I would get it after I got money for my cashews, but he got mad. "

In rural areas of the state, even those lucky few students whose families can afford the technology face obstacles in the form of connectivity issues, which leads to even greater pressure on boys and girls to adapt and excel in these difficult times.

Brother Joseph, director of St. Catherine of Siena School and Orphanage, Welfare Society for Destitute Children (pictured), Bandra Mumbai, told AsiaNews: "Today we bought 10 mobile phones. People don't have money to eat and how can they find money for smartphones. Hunger is on the rise ... We continue to distribute lunches to the destitute, and the queues are increasing. Since the lockdown began, St. Catherine has served more than 100,000 meals to the indigent, poor and hungry in our urban areas.

The St. Catherine of Siena facility currently houses 75 poor and indigent children. “In early June, at the beginning of the school year, I appealed for second-hand smartphones, but we have now bought 10 new phones. The vision of our founder Father   Anthony Elenjimittam was 'To educate, heal and empower through long-term and committed support for children, orphans, the streets, the slums and the destitute'. So, even under lockdown and pandemic conditions, we continue online to empower them through education and for our 75 children at Destitute home, we have not only online classes, but multiple learning projects, such as Fine arts, crafts, music, sports, dance etc. ".

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