As many as 1,47,492 children in India have lost either one or both parents due to Covid-19 since March 2020, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) told the Supreme Court in January this year. Out of these, the maximum number of children is between 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 are now left with an ocean of grief and a financial battle to fight. But it is their willingness to fulfill their parents’ dreams that have helped them survive against all odds.
Filled with hope, these children share stories of strength and resilience.
Juggling between the family business and school — the Kanpur siblings
2021 was the toughest year for Aditya Sanghi (16) and his 17-year-old sister Rudranshi Sanghi who lost their mother to the second wave of Covid-19. With a partially paralysed father to take care of, the siblings decided to take over the family business to support their education.
“I wanted to be an automobile engineer but the unfortunate death of my mother changed all plans. My sister and I juggle between school and business and hence there is little time left for any coaching I would have needed for JEE preparation. As guided by my teachers, I took up the commerce stream in Class 11. Since my sister is also studying the same stream, she helps me in my studies,” Aditya told indianexpress.com
“We attend school on alternate days. So the days when my sister attends school, I handle business and vice-versa. The authorities of Seth Anandram Jaipuria School have been supportive all through this shift. My mother was my only guide and support. Even after she left, her motivating words stayed with me and I scored 89 per cent in Class 10 board exams,” he added.
Dropped a year after school only to emerge stronger
Jodhpur’s Raj Rathi lost both his parents to Covid-19 in 2021. Despite going through a rough phase, Raj scored 96.4 per cent in Class 12 board exams.
“My parents always guided me to work hard but never pressured me into taking up any particular subject. Their demise took a toll on my mental health and this is when I decided to take a break for a year. I stayed with my elder siblings all this while and in December 2021, I started preparing for CLAT. I enrolled with Toprankers for coaching who supported me both academically and financially,” Raj shared.
He cleared the CLAT 2022 with AIR 516 and got admission to one of the two colleges he was aiming to join. “I wanted to either join NALSAR Hyderabad or Gujarat National Law University. With a good score, I was accepted at GNLU along with a scholarship to support my college fees. Once I complete my integrated BBA-LLB degree, I would want to be a corporate lawyer,” he added.
Student by day… security guard by night
After his father’s demise in May 2021, 18-year-old Vikash Kumar was caught in thoughts of livelihood and caregiving. With a family of six to support, Vikash’s mother took up odd jobs to educate and feed her children.
“I passed Class 12 in 2021 and wanted to pursue engineering. But as my father passed away, the financial instability forced me to look for alternatives. That’s when Priya didi from Parkshala NGO guided me to pursue BCA and also took all financial burden away. I am now in the second year of BCA at IMT Greater Noida,” Vikash said.
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 gets difficult for my mother to feed all of us. So I took up a job as a helper with Cancercare Trust NGO and later as a security guard at an office. It at least helps in paying off the house rent,” he shared.
Lost both parents, a friend came to rescue
For 15-year-old Aryan Sanjay Kandekar, life changed after he lost both his parents to Covid within a span of five months last year. Aryan then took shelter at his grandmother’s dilapidated home in Beed, Maharashtra. Currently studying in Class 10, Aryan wants to be a bank manager once he grows up.
“Covid years were tough for me both personally and academically. As classes were conducted online, I missed most of my tutorials in the initial months after my father passed away. But my friend came to my rescue and we attended online classes through his mother’s mobile phone. I am grateful for his family who let me study with him. I want to study hard and earn well so that I never have to depend on anyone financially,” he said.
Till 2020, Aryan attended speech therapy to treat 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 trouble her with an additional burden. She spends most of her pension on my studies, books, and other essentials. The stammer is now an identity for me and I have accepted it. My friends and teachers are supportive and patient with me which encourages me to not see this as a shortfall,” Aryan said.
‘Will fulfill my father’s dream’
“My father always wanted to be a doctor but he couldn’t due to financial constraints. I will fulfill his dreams,” said 15-year-old Shikha Verma, a student of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Lucknow who lost her father to Covid during the second-wave of pandemic.
“My father used to work as a receptionist with Javitri Hospital and he lost his life during Covid while saving the lives of others. His sacrifice is an inspiration for me and I want to fulfill his dream. My classmates and teachers have been most supportive during this phase. They made sure that none of the students dropped out of school after losing their parents and also offered to pay school fees. Because of their efforts, I was able to score 76 per cent in board exams,” she 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. Both my elder brothers are currently in college so there is no earning member in the immediate family. It might get tough to take up coaching now but I will restart my preparation through online platforms and websites,” Verma said in high spirits.