‘Was Upset’: Father of Kerala Girl Who Ended Life Over Web Classes

The 14-year-old was anxious that her family will not be able to afford a smartphone for her to be able to study.

Published04 Jun 2020, 06:51 AM IST
Education
3 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

Balakrishnan and his wife Sheeba are in absolute shock. They are unable to comprehend that their 14-year-old daughter is no more.

“If she had even a little life in her, I would’ve saved her.”
Balakrishnan, Girl’s Father

On 1 June, the teenage Dalit girl allegedly ended her life over not being able to attend online classes. The Class 10 student lived in the Mankeri Dalit colony in the Walanchery area of Kerala’s Malappuram district.

“She was quite upset that she was not able to study and classes had not started. We were expecting schools to open by 1 June, but they still hadn’t,” her father told The Quint.

The Class 10 student lived in the Mankeri Dalit colony in the Walanchery area of Kerala’s Malappuram district.
The Class 10 student lived in the Mankeri Dalit colony in the Walanchery area of Kerala’s Malappuram district.
(Photo: The Quint)

At 4:30 pm on Monday, 1 June, the child was playing with her younger sister and cousins outside their house. Suddenly, the family realised she was missing.

“We assumed she would’ve gone to the neighbours’ house. When we looked, we didn’t find her even there,” her father said.

Just then he heard a loud call from people who lived a few blocks away from their house. Balakrishnan stood in shock as he stared at the charred corpse of his daughter who had set herself ablaze.

According to the police, the girl had self-immolated with kerosene.

‘Always Got Very Good Marks’

The Kerala government had restarted classes for school students from LKG to Class 12 with experimental virtual classes from 1 June. Students could take these classes on YouTube or through the government-run education channel Kite Victers.

Balakrishnan said that they were awaiting a circular from the school regarding how classes will be held.

She was a star student in her class – and had even bagged the Ayyankali talent scholarship, awarded by the Kerala government.

‘Was Upset’: Father of Kerala Girl Who Ended Life Over Web Classes
(Photo: The Quint)

“She used to get very good marks... always A grades,” her teacher Manjula told the media.

“One day when she had a headache. I had come to drop her home. Only then did I know about her family situation. So we have helped her a lot by waiving her fees,” she said.

She added that she was unaware of the family’s financial situation in the wake of the pandemic. Balakrishnan, a daily wage labourer, had no means to income due to the lockdown. The family neither owned a smartphone nor have a functioning television set.

“When we asked the teachers, they said the government will make some arrangements through TV. Those who don’t have TV will be given a tablet, they said. I had told her I will fix the TV before school reopened. I wasn't able to find a technician. I had told her that the school will make arrangements,” her father said.

In the meantime, protests erupted over the state government not ensuring all students have equal access to online classes before implementing such a system.

Kerala Education Minister C Raveendranath has sought a report from the district-level education officials on this tragic incident.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, a Lok Sabha MP from Kerala's Wayanad, wrote to the District Collector on Wednesday, about the challenges students with limited access to smartphones, computers, and internet connections are facing. He urged the state to extend support to those in the marginalised groups who do not have access to e-learning.

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