(Eds: Recasts, adds details, background) Malappuram (Ker), June 2 (PTI) A class nine student in Kerala allegedly committed suicide by setting herself on fire as she was unable to attend virtual classes since her family did not have a smartphone, police said on Tuesday.
The classes, broadcast through KITE VICTERS TV channel and made available simultaneously on the KITE VICTERS website, mobile app and social media pages, could not be accessed by the girlsince the TV in her home was also dysfunctional and she was dejected, her family said.
While the government has sought a report, the death of the girl at nearby Valancherry led to an outrage and various student outfits staged protests.
The 14-year old girl, daughter of a daily wage earner who did not have work due to the lockdown, was depressed before she killed herself as she was unable to attend the digital classes, her family said.
The victim wrote something about death in a notebook - probably to give a hint about her decision - before she took the extreme step on Monday, hours after the virtual sessions for classes 1 to 12 began on a trial basis for the new academic year in the state.
Education Minister Prof C Raveendranath sought a report, various students organisations protested against the student's death and took out marches.
The online sessions named 'First Bell' are telecast through 'VICTERS channel' under the state General Education department from 8.30 AM to 5.30 AM on weekdays.
Attacking the LDF government, KPCC President, Mullapally Ramachandran alleged that 30 per cent students could not participate in the online classes.
'It is shameful that a student has lost her life fearing that her studies would be disrupted,' he said.
Ubaid Hussain Thangal, MLA, alleged the student was a victim of lack of foresightedness of the authorities who failed to do the homework prior to launching online classes and thousands of students had no wherewithal to attend them.
The victim, Devika, was the eldest of four children of Balakrishnan, a Dalit labourer, who was out of work for about two months due to the lockdown and the family faced a severe financial crisis.
The girl's grandmother said Devika was 'upset and depressed' as she was unable to attend the digital class.
The girl ended her life by setting herself ablaze about 200 meters off her house.
Malappuram district police superintendent Abdul Karim said it was a suicide.
Devika's mother had given birth to a baby girl just a few days ago and due to some medical complications, the family also had to borrow money for medical expenses, the official added.
The victim's father was inconsolable and said she was a bright student and was nervous as the family's televsion set had been defunct for long and none at home had a smartphone.
Devika had told her parents several times to get the TV repaired so that she could tune in to get inputs related to her studies and they had promised to do it.
Police chased away the supporters of Muslim Students Federation and Kerala Students Union who gathered at the officesof Deputy Director of Education in Malappuram and Kozhikode.
The Malappuram Education department sources said it had prepared a list of students who were facing difficulty in participating in digital class and 'Devika was among them,' indicating that the girl ended her life before they could do something to address the issue.
The ongoing classes, for which the timetable had been prepared by the Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE), were on a trial basis and all students wouldbe equipped with necessary gadgets by June 8, when the system would be perfected and formally commence, the authorities said.
Incidentally, Director of Public Instruction (DPI) K Jeevan Babu had on Monday said the new method of teaching and studying was a challenge for the teachers and the students.
According to him, the department was worried about a section of students who lacked facilities for online classes and had identified over two lakh students in that category.
'We have entrusted the class teachers and school headmasters or principals to make sure that students have access to a television or a smart phone or a computer, and internet for attending the classes. If not, they should find an alternative for the students to attend the online classes either in real time or later,' Babu had said.
It had also been suggested that sutdents can use the television or internet facilities of neighbours, friends staying nearby or libraries. PTI COR UD ROH VGN VS VS