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    It Takes The Death Of A Student To Expose The Gaps In India's Education System

    #JusticeForAishwarya

    On the 2nd of November, distressing news came out of Telangana about the suicide of Aishwarya Reddy, a mathematics honours student from New Delhi's Lady Shri Ram College For Women. In her suicide note, she wrote about being a burden on her family because of her education and blamed no-one for her death.

    SFI-Delhi / Via Facebook: sfidelhi

    A resident of LSR's hostel, Aishwarya was a meritorious student — she was a state topper in the class 12th board examinations owing to which she was selected for the INSPIRE Scholarship.

    This financial assistance, however, was delayed since the month of March. Furthermore, Aishwarya was asked to vacate her hostel room as the LSR residence is only available for first-year students. This particular policy has received a lot of criticism in the past.

    lsr.edu.in

    What's equally troubling is that in a survey conducted by the LSR Students' Union, Aishwarya, along with several other students, revealed that she was struggling to attend online classes because she had to use her phone as she did not own a laptop. Moreover, she did not have a stable internet connection and was forced to buy additional data packs in order to attend lectures. It must be noted that Aishwarya's family had mortgaged their Telengana home to fund her education and her sister had to discontinue her studies because of their financial crunch.

    The college authorities, including the principal, decided to blame the victim by stating that she had never approached the administration for help. Furthermore, the Alumni Association spoke about the presence of a certified counsellor to help students.

    The India Today Group / The India Today Group via Getty

    The reality, however, is rather grim.

    #LSR has ONE counsellor for 2000+ students who visits the campus thrice a week for an hour each. Most students are unaware of her presence and some testimonials even prove her incompetence. What "many mechanisms" exist then? #JusticeForAishwarya #JusticeForAishwaryaReddy

    Poverty augmented by the lockdown, the curse of the digital divide, an unaccommodating college administration, and an apathetic government pushed a student to take her own life. Aishwarya's death was termed an 'institutional murder' for these reasons.

    The truth is that our education system does not cater to the marginalised — it purely exists for the privileged. Our education system does not recognise economic inequalities — it thrives because of them.

    Hindustan Times / Getty Images

    In prestigious liberal arts institutions such as LSR, students are taught about dismantling social hierarchies and recognising imbalances. They are actively encouraged to speak up when the system fails them. However, these institutions are often the very social structures that suppress voices of dissent and perpetuate socioeconomic disparities. These institutions are the system.

    Daughter of a mechanic, Aishwarya scored 98.5% in 12th Lockdown financial troubles meant she couldn't afford her education Youth are dying as they can't afford a laptop & are not getting scholarships PM is busy playing with 🦚 & 🦜 #JusticeForAishwarya https://t.co/oiorEWSkHu

    Aishwarya was a hosteller, was told by the admin to vacate room in the middle of a pandemic- LSR admin wants students from marginalised backgrounds to travel across the country to empty their rooms and search for accommodation in the middle of a pandemic! #JusticeForAishwarya

    Not having a hostel to live in is not a 'personal" problem. Not having a laptop to study with is not a "personal" problem. Not getting your scholarship is not a "personal" problem. #Justiceforaishwarya

    There's an Aishwarya Reddy today and there was a Rohith Vemula yesterday.

    Hindustan Times / Getty Images

    There was also a Payal Tadvi, not too long ago.

    Hindustan Times / Getty Images

    While the reason behind the heart-breaking suicides of both Rohith and Payal are vastly different from that of Aishwarya's — both have a background of caste discrimination, another rampant issue in India — these are all instances of the system failing young students. Lady Shri Ram College failed an innocent young woman — one of the many women who aspire to call its red corridors, sprawling lawns, and classrooms home. Where does one go when a 'prestigious' institution such as this delivers absolute injustice to its students?

    Hindustan Times / Getty Images

    And we're concerned as to how many students have to take their lives before this problem is remedied.

    As per statistics, a student dies by suicide every hour in India. More than 10,000 such lives were lost in 2018 alone. The once-thriving lives of Aishwarya, Rohith, Payal, and several others have been reduced to these figures.

    Nadia_bormotova / Getty Images

    How many more Aishwaryas do we need before we witness a change?

    If you have suicidal thoughts or know someone in distress, please reach out. You can speak to someone by calling AASRA’s 24x7 helpline at +91 98204 66726. Alternatively, you can call these numbers of other local helplines, emergency services, and mental health organisations.

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