How children who lost their parents to Covid are balancing life and school

As many as 1,47,492 children in India have lost one or both parents to Covid-19 since March 2020, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) told the Supreme Court in January this year. Of these, the maximum number of children is in the age group of eight to 13 years (59,010), followed by children in the age group of 14 to 15 years.

Many of these children now find themselves with an ocean of pain and an economic battle to fight. But it is their will to fulfill their parents’ dreams that has helped them survive against all odds.

Full of hope, these children share stories of strength and resilience.

Juggling Family Business and School: The Kanpur Brothers

2021 was the toughest year for Aditya Sanghi (16) and his sister Rudranshi Sanghi, 17, who lost their mother to the second wave of Covid-19. With a partially paralyzed father to care for, the brothers decided to take over the family business to support his education.

“I wanted to be an automotive engineer but the unfortunate death of my mother changed all plans. My sister and I juggle school and business so there is little time left for any training I would have need for JEE preparation. As per the guidance of my teachers, I started commerce course in class 11. As my sister is also studying the same course, it helps me in my studies,” said Aditya at indianexpress.com.

“We go to school on alternate days. So on days when my sister goes to school, I take care of business and vice versa. Seth Anandram Jaipuria School authorities have been supportive throughout this change . My mother was my only guide and support. Even after she left, her motivational words stayed with me and I scored 89 per cent in my class 10 exams,” he added.

He dropped out after a year of school just to come out stronger

Raj Rathi from Jodhpur lost both his parents to Covid-19 in 2021. Despite going through a tough phase, Raj scored 96.4 percent in his class 12 board exams.

“My parents always guided me to work hard but never pressured me to pursue any particular subject. Their passing affected my mental health and that’s when I decided to take a year off. I was left with my elder brothers all this time and I started preparing for CLAT in December 2021. I joined Toprankers for coaching which supported me both academically and financially,” shared Raj.

He cleared CLAT 2022 with AIR 516 and got admission in one of the two colleges he wanted to join. “I wanted to join NALSAR Hyderabad or Gujarat National Law University. With a good score, I got accepted into GNLU along with a scholarship to bear my college fees. After completing my integrated BBA-LLB degree , I would like to be a corporate lawyer,” he added.

Student by day…security guard by night

After the death of his father in May 2021, 18-year-old Vikash Kumar was stuck in his thoughts about life and care. With a family of six to support, Vikash’s mother worked odd jobs to educate and feed her children.

“I passed class 12 in 2021 and wanted to study engineering. But when my father passed away, financial instability forced me to look for alternatives. That’s when Priya Didi from NGO Parkshala guided me to look for BCA and also it took all the financial burden off me. Now I am in second year of BCA at IMT Greater Noida,” said Vikash.

However, life after his father’s death has not been easy for Vikash and his family who live on rent in a one-room house in Noida. “The rent is high and with a family of six, it is difficult for my mother to feed us all. So I started working as an assistant at the NGO Cancercare Trust and later as a security guard in an office. At least it helps pay the house rent,” she shared.

Both parents lost, a friend came to rescue him

For 15-year-old Aryan Sanjay Kandekar, life changed after he lost his parents to Covid within a five-month period last year. Aryan then took refuge in his grandmother’s dilapidated house in Beed, Maharashtra. Currently studying in class 10, Aryan wants to be a bank manager when he grows up.

“The Covid years were tough for me both personally and academically. Because the classes were online, I missed most of my tutorials in the first few months after my father died. But my friend came to my rescue and we attended online classes through his mother’s mobile.I am thankful to his family for letting me study with him.I want to study hard and earn well so that I never have to depend on anyone financially “, he said.

Until 2020, Aryan attended speech therapy to treat his stuttering, but after losing both parents to Covid, he has no financial resources left to continue the therapy. “My grandmother is not aware of my treatment needs, nor do I want to bother her with an additional burden. She spends most of her pension on my studies, books and other essentials. Stammering is now an identity for me and I’ve accepted it. My friends and teachers are supportive and patient, which encourages me not to see this as a deficit,” Aryan said.

“It will fulfill my father’s dream”

“My father always wanted to be a doctor, but he couldn’t because of financial constraints. I will fulfill their dreams,” said 15-year-old Shikha Verma, a student of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Lucknow who lost her father to Covid during the second wave of the pandemic.

“My father worked as a receptionist at Javitri Hospital and lost his life during Covid while saving the lives of others. His sacrifice is an inspiration to me and I want to fulfill his dream. My classmates and teachers have been the most supportive during this phase. They ensured that none of the students dropped out of school after losing their parents and also offered to pay school fees. Thanks to their efforts, I was able to score 76 per cent in the board exams,” he said.

Shikha was preparing for NEET since class 10 but had to discontinue coaching classes due to financial constraints. “I live in a joint family and my uncle sponsors my school education. My two older brothers are currently in college, so there is no earning member in the immediate family. It might be difficult to take up training now, but I will restart my preparation through online platforms and websites,” Verma said with high spirits.

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