That Aishwarya Reddy, a bright young daughter of a poor mechanic from Telangana who on the strength of her merit had secured admission in the prestigious LSR College of Delhi University, has been driven to suicide is the latest heartrending instance of such cases reported afrom cross the country in the past few months. The adverse impact on the studies of many children of impoverished parents unable to further fund their schooling due to loss of income in the Covid era is one of the most agonising repercussions as it is encumbered with long-term socio-economic consequences. Lakhs of homes are battling mental turmoil as their kids are forced to sacrifice studies or even take up menial jobs to supplement family income.
The frustration and disadvantage due to the break in education is aggravated among the brilliant lot of students who desperately want to continue with their classes and score well. Their sensitive minds delve into dark depths of despair as they sense the pitiable plight of their parents scraping up meagre resources so that their dream is not cut short. The all-consuming darkness, at times, becomes overwhelming for some vulnerable teenagers. The heightened hopelessness of stressed students is ripe ground for suicidal tendencies, intensified for want of proper psychiatric care. Aishwarya’s last note sums up the poignancy: ‘Because of me, my family is facing many financial problems. I am a burden for my family. My education is a burden. If I can’t study, I can’t live.’
Helplessness arising out of unaffordable smartphones, computers or the Internet — vital for online classes — is the recurring theme. That youngsters should prefer to snuff out their lives is a sad reflection on the deepening economic and digital divide. The absence of effective and supportive educational and governmental measures in this regard is worrisome. A survey revealing that only 8 per cent of households with school/college students have both a computer and an Internet connection shows that there is much to be done. So that no student is deprived of studies or pushed to the brink for lack of facilities, increasing the budget for e-learning will help plug the gaping e-gaps.