Yangchen C Rinzin 

 A total of 149 students (81 male and 68 female) from 34 public and private schools in Thimphu Thromde have dropped out after the school closure since March due to Covid-19 pandemic. 

Eighteen students could not be contacted, according to the Education in Emergency (EIE), Implementation Report 2020 of Thimphu Thromde that Kuensel has accessed.

“The reason could be that they gave the wrong phone number,” a public school teacher said. “Even parents did not get in touch with schools for follow-up. In some cases, it could be because they don’t have a telecommunication network in their area.”

Many principals, however, said that their school administration was confident that the students would return for the next academic session, as many have not claimed their transfer certificates.

The school administrations have decided to accept students back when they return. 

One of the private school principals said that the students most probably have decided to repeat next year. 

According to teachers, many students were not confident to continue after a long gap and lost interest in studying; some could not cope with the online classes. 

“But we’ve advised them to return next year,” a principal from a private school said. “One of our female students got addicted to gaming and, despite advice, she refused to continue her education.”

Although several efforts were put in place to keep students engaged and continue education online, about nine students joined religious institutions. Others had either landed a job or married.

 “A Class VIII student had married and was pregnant by the time school knew,” a public school principal said. “We tried convincing her to return after six months but it appears she has decided not to.”

The highest dropout rate was between Classes PP-VI and PP-X.

It was found come dropout cases were due to parents losing jobs due to the pandemic and returned to the village.

“Some students returned even though they were not interested to continue because parents had already paid the school fees,” the private school principal said.

Some principals were of the view that pandemic cannot be blamed because students dropping out have other various personal reasons. 

Some schools have resorted to counselling to help students build confidence. 

Some of the challenges of EIE faced by both private and government schools were that many students had to depend on either their parents’ cell phone or share with their siblings, which often made submitting their work on time a problem.

Inadequate ICT skills and knowledge of teachers, students and parents, and the financial implications also hampered the effective teaching-learning process.

Although 60 percent of parents found online education useful, about 44.1 percent found it was inadequate compared to face-face learning.

About 23.5 percent students found online learning flexible and encouraged independently learning, whereas 26.4 percent found it difficult because there was no constant guidance from teachers and elders.

A fair number found online learning expensive.