One of the most tragic and memorable moments of any Hardy novel is in Jude the Obscure. Jude’s son, Little Father Time as he is known, strangles his siblings and hangs himself, leaving a note saying “done because we are too menny” (sic). His reasoning is that Jude and Sue will be better off without the children and less poor.
Tragic as this is in a novel, you can’t imagine it happening in real life.
Today I read one of the most depressing news stories I have ever seen. An 11-year-old Filipino girl has hanged herself in despair over her family’s poverty.
“I wish for new shoes, a bag and jobs for my mother and father. My dad does not have a job and my mom just gets laundry jobs,” she wrote in a letter she put under her pilllow before she died. “I would like to finish my schooling and I would like very much to buy a new bike.”
Her family lives in poverty in a hillside shanty town, 600 miles south of Manila. Apparently little Mariannet could no longer bear to show up at school with no shoes and was also distraught at missing school when her parents couldn’t afford the fare to get her there. On those days she would just stay at home and do laundry with her mother.
A neighbour said of them: “The Amper family are always being discriminated against. They’re poor, the kids are dirty and the other kids don’t want to play with them. Because they’re very poor, they’ve been rejected by their neighbours.”
Any child dying like this is beyond horrific. But what really got to me was that this was clearly a very sensitive and intelligent young girl who was deprived of something she yearned for; an education. I’m not sure you can call education a human right, but it certainly should be a right for those who want it, and those who could benefit from it.
Perhaps Mariannet would have been the first member of the Amper family to make it out of the slums. She certainly felt the shame of living there strongly enough to want to escape, even to die.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007