Ministry to persuade students to return

Yangchen C Rinzin

The education ministry has found out that 114 Class X students and 96 Class XII students had not returned to school after schools reopened on July 1. Together, 210 students have dropped out of school so far this year.

Illness, opting for jobs, joining monastic education, changing schools and a few deciding to repeat in the next academic year were some of the reasons, according to education secretary Karma Tshering. The secretary said a few students got married or were sent to rehabilitation centres, as they had come into conflict with law during the school closure.

“Despite efforts to keep students engaged during the school closure, it was disheartening to see students not returning to school,” he said.  “The ministry asked the concerned dzongkhag/thromde and schools to encourage and persuade the students to continue their education.”

The secretary added that although school authorities did their best to persuade the students, it is important to understand the circumstances of the concerned families and respect their decisions.

The ministry through the school principals and dzongkhag/thromde education officers (DEOs and TEOs) will continue to track all those 210 students.

“We’ll ensure those who are ill, on rehabilitation programme and who want to repeat return to school next year,” the secretary said. “It is also important to ensure those students seeking jobs find jobs to ensure no child is left out of school for unjustifiable reasons.”

The secretary confirmed that the closure of schools for a long duration because of the pandemic made parents and students make such a decision (dropout). “Had the schools remained opened, these students would have continued their education. If the school closure continues, there can be more cases of students not returning to schools.”

Schools were first closed on March 6 in four dzongkhags and then across the country on March 18. Students are not confident about returning to school, so they chose to continue their education next year. Many principals in an earlier interview with Kuensel shared that students were not confident of what they learnt through online education to continue in the class.

In terms of intervention, secretary Karma Tshering said that when the parents have decided, there was not much the ministry could do. “But we’ll continue to advocate and educate families and in particular, students on the importance of having to complete their education,” the secretary said, adding the ministry will also look into providing extra counseling services to the students.

Considering the various consequences from the school closure, the education ministry recommended to the government for reopening of schools and subsequently Classes X and XII were reopened.

The ministry has now put in place all the necessary preparation to reopen Classes VII to IX and XI so that children will not miss the education. The government is yet to announce the reopening of schools for rest of the classes in the phase II of new normal.

“It’s also the role of the education ministry, DEOs/TEOs and concerned schools to consistently monitor and engage the students meaningfully during school closure,” the secretary said. “This can ease the worries of the families and children to achieve better academic learning outcomes.”

Since the school closure, the ministry has intensified the vigilance on the continuous education taught through TV, radio, social media, print media, and individual teachers reaching out to students to teach and counsel in the remote villages.

“Teachers have also risked their life travelling during this monsoon to ensure students are staying in the village and studying,” secretary said. “We also kept some students at schools who were unable to go back to their villages due to various economic and social reasons.”