An 11-year-old student committed suicide on October 10 in Dayyer, southwestern Iran because he did not have a smartphone to participate in online classes.
Speaking to the state-run Rokna News Agency, Mohammad Moussavi’s mother said her son’s school principal had promised to give Mohammad and two other impoverished students smartphones so they could participate in the online classes. A promise that was not kept. Most Iranian students take part in online classes via “Shad”, an application that connects teachers to their students at home.
According to the report, Mohammad’s mother had left to buy groceries on Saturday while his sick father and three brothers were at home. Upon his mother’s arrival they find Mohammad’s dead body in the kitchen.
“He was in the fifth grade and always had good grades. He wanted a smartphone to connect to his teacher during online classes. We only had one phone, which did not work properly. He could not take videos or send voice messages,” said his mother.
His impoverished family said Mohammad usually used his relative’s phones to connect to his teacher and participate in class.
The distraught mother said her husband was sick and that one of her other sons was disabled.
“I clean people’s homes and we have a hard time making a living. We get along with the help of people and our relatives. I was working to buy him a smartphone. He told me he would work himself, once he got older. He needed a smartphone or tablet so he wouldn’t fall behind in classes, but I could not afford it,” she added.
The Bushehr Education Organization denied that Mohammad committed suicide because he did not have a smartphone. A local education official said the school principal had given him a smartphone. When he was questioned as to why Mohammad would use his relative’s phones if he had his own, he replied, “This case is still under investigation. The school principal was their neighbor and constantly helped the Moussavi family financially.”
But his mother said the school never helped them.
“His grief caused him to kill himself,” she said adding that the school never gave them financial help.
Due to national outrage over the heartbreaking report, the Chief Justice of Dayyer threatened those who were looking to “create a hype” and “weaken” the regime over the case.
“Those who want to weaken the Islamic State of Iran and the Ministry of Education will be dealt with decisively and in a judicial manner,” he said yesterday.
3.5 million children don’t have access to learning app
In late September, an Iranian lawmaker said that according to the Ministry of Education, 3.5 million children cannot use the Shad (Happy) learning app because they do not have access to the internet or smartphones.
The Head of the Education Organization in Hamedan, west central Iran said that 14,000 students in the province were also deprived of education during the COVID-19 epidemic because of their lack of access to the internet and smartphones.
Another recent report that shed light on the plight of Iran’s impoverished students was the story of 14-year-old Mani who took to working as a border porter to earn enough money for a smartphone.
On September 14, Mani slipped while trying to evade an ambush by border guards and hit his head, sustaining a severe injury.
There have been several cases of child suicides from poverty in the past few months.
A 12-year-old student in Abadan, southwestern Iran, took his own life when his mother sold his bicycle and smartphone to pay the rent.
Locals reported another student suicide in Bijar, Kurdistan province, in western Iran. Soroush Rezaie committed suicide because he could not afford a smartphone to continue his education.
In the latest cases the Human Rights News Agency reported that an 11-year-old Afghan-national in Tehran hanged herself. The report did not specify the reason behind her suicide.
ROKNA also reported that another boy, identified as 10-year-old Morteza, hanged himself in a village in Ilam, western Iran in early October. The village head said he committed suicide from poverty.
Due to a record low of the country’s currency and economic problems in Iran, the poverty line for a family of four has increased to 10 million tomans (around $314). This has left more than 60 million Iranians in poverty while 50% of the population live in abject poverty. With the sharp increase in the price of electronics, only a limited number of students can afford smartphones or tablets for online classes.
Increase in suicides
The average age of suicides has decreased, and the number of suicides has increased, the Deputy Minister of Sport and Youth said today.
“It would seem as though the suicide rate is increasing in the country and according to published figures, they are carried out mostly by people between 15-35 years of age but this year, we have witnessed the suicides of children under 15 years of age which is unfortunate,” Mohammad Mehdi Tondgouyan said in an interview with the state-run Borna News Agency.
He said the most important reasons behind suicides were “economic conditions” and the “lack of supervision on social and moral issues in the family.”