Unable to attend online class, class X student commit suicide in Kerala

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The suicide by a 10th standard student in Kerala for not being able to join the online classes launched by the state education department since Jun 1 has sparked protests across the state.

Devika Balakrishnan (14) could not attend the class as the television in her house was not working and she had no smart phone. Her charred remains were found on Monday night in front of an unoccupied house in her neighbourhood. She had been missing since 3.30 pm. An empty kerosene bottle was found near the body.

Police found a suicide note in her room bore the following, heartbreaking message: "I'm going.

Devika's father, 45-year-old daily wager Balakrishnan, said she had been depressed at being unable to join the online class.

"She had been telling us to repair the television so that she could attend the online class. But we had no money to repair the television and we have no smartphone," said Balakrishnan, who has not been able to go for work for the last few days due to an illness.

As soon as the news regarding the death of Devika spread, activists of students unions affiliated to the opposition parties barged into the offices of district education offices across the state blaming the government for launching the online classes without creating facility for all students to attend them.

The activists also staged a protest in front of Education Minister C Raveendranath’s residence at Thrissur. The minister has ordered a probe into the circumstances that led to Devika's death.  The Malappuram District Education Officer has been asked to conduct the inquiry and submit a report.

The minister said that the online classes were conducted on a trial basis. The students who have missed the classes will be given opportunity to attend the classes.

“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,” Raveendranath was quoted by India Today as saying.

Kerala has reopened schools, launching online classes through the Victers Channel; it broadcasts 30-minute-long classes for 4.1 million students, from Classes 1 to 12.

The project “First Bell”, launched by Kerala Infrastructure and Information Technology for Education (KITE), has received appreciation from students, teachers and parents alike.

The state government has directed all local self-government bodies to set up neighbourhood classrooms with televisions for poor students who have no television or smartphones at home.

Image Credit: Manorma online

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