Death of Indian school student sheds light on the digital divide

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, India declared a total lockdown, and schools were not excluded, leaving millions of children in poor and rural areas with no access to education. Indian authorities attempted to mitigate the situation through broadcasting classes on television and on an online platform. On the first day of the new school term, the 14-year-old daughter of a daily wage labourer was found dead in the southern state of Kerala  near the family home. She reportedly committed suicide because she did not have a television or smartphone and hence was unable to attend online classes. In response, students went out to the streets of Kerala to protest, which has further emphasised the inequalities during lockdown, with pupils from poor, rural areas, being far less likely to learn online. ‘The government action has put poor students under stress and pressure. It should enable the poor students to obtain computers at Interest-free loans to avoid similar cases in future,’ said Abhijith K.M. who heads the Kerala Students Union and was among the protesters.