Yangchen C Rinzin

The Opposition Party, last week, demanded the education ministry make the shareholders of Rigzom Academy, a private school in Paro, public.

The reason for the demand too is not made public, but the party is suspecting the ownership structure of the school and how the school benefitted from the government’s decision to do away with the Class X cut-off point and sponsoring students.

The party’s media spokesperson, Bartsham-Shongphu’s Member of Parliament, Passang Dorji, refused to elaborate on the reasons for the party’s demand.

 It was learnt that the Party  found the Academy received the highest number of students after the cut-off point was done away with. The party is convinced that the school is owned by members and supporters of the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa and that it has benefited from the cut-off point decision.

One on the suspect list is the secretary general of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), Phurba. However, the secretary general refuted the allegation and told Kuensel that he did not own any shares in the school although he knows the proprietor of the school.

Rigzom Academy, former Tenzin Higher Secondary School, according to the school’s website, is managed by a new team of highly professional educationists in a corporate style.

The promoter and shareholders of the Academy, the academy’s website states, comprise of a team of educationists. Kuensel learnt that the proprietor of the school approached her friends when she took over the Academy and couldn’t raise enough fund.   

One shareholder told Kuensel that Tshering Pem approached her “close friends,” all educationists, to invest and help her raise the money. “Technically, it is not a shareholding. We just lent her money,” he said. “We got back our money months ago. The Academy has to be listed if we bought shares. We just lent money to a friend.”

Another shareholder said that Tshering Pem had approached them because of their background in education and sought advice. “We had verbally agreed to lend and receive interest.”

Kuensel could not independently verify this with the proprietor, Tshering Pem, as she is out of the country.

Meanwhile, education officials do not know who the shareholders of the Academy are.

The deputy chief of private school division, Kinley Gyeltshen said that the ministry went by the legal document and that Tshering Pem is reflected as the proprietor and promoter of the school.

He said according to the document, Tshering Pem leased the school from former owner Sonam Zangmo for seven years. “The agreement does not specify any other shareholders involved in the transaction.”

Rigzom Academy currently has 392 students in class XI.

Vice principal, Madhav P Dahal, said it was not true that the school received the highest number of students through internal adjustment.

He said in the beginning when the education ministry distributed the students, the school was supposed to receive only 340 students from the ministry, however, only 300 turned up.

“Later some of the students came seeking admission at our school and some opted based on the location of the school and boarding facilities,” he said. “This is why the number has increased and a few extra students are those who completed class X before 2018 and came to continue their studies.”

On the distribution of students, Kinley Gyeltshen, told Kuensel that there were no flaws in admission of class XI students in private schools. He said that establishment of a private school was guided by the private schools’ establishment and operational guidelines, which clearly specify requirements, procedures and implementation.

The deputy chief said placement of students to private higher secondary schools was made based on earlier notifications issued by the ministry. According to the notification, all the students were placed in most convenient private schools based on region, appropriateness and boarding facilities.

“Each private school was provided enrollment slots and those students who did not wish to study in the alloted schools, a choice was given to change. Those who could not find a school, the ministry facilitated the placement,” he said.

The enrollment capacity was based on the total number of intake, streams and boarding facilities. The schools were not allowed to admit more than the slots allocated.

“Some of the students had opted for other schools based on location and their convenience, which is why a few private schools had extra students,” Kinley Gyeltshen said. “A few schools admitted more slots than allocated but we couldn’t intervene since the students had already paid their fees, bought uniform and stationaries.”