Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing 

While the prolonged lockdown in Phuentsholing has caused problems and anxiety to most residents, it is also a platform for some to help the needy.

A Phuentsholing-based bikers’ group, Bhutan Raven Motorcycle Club (BRMC) is one such example. The club has tried to bring about hope and solidarity in Phuentsholing by rendering a much needed community service.

The club has funded Nu 240,000 to purchase 40 Samsung smartphones for needy students of Phuentsholing Lower Secondary School (PLSS).

The general secretary with BRMC, Dawa Gyeltshen said the club made the contribution realising that education is the backbone of the country and youth are the leaders of the future.

Phuentsholing went into the third lockdown on April 17 this year. With community cases still emerging and relaxations not possible, schools restarted online classes, but the 40 students of PLSS did not have smartphones.

Some students had to share phones with siblings, which hampered the online education.

Dawa Gyeltshen said those students who couldn’t afford to buy smartphones were falling behind in their online classes. 

“So that’s why we had chosen this task as important to help during the pandemic.”

PLSS is a day school and has the most students under Phuentsholing Thromde. The school has 1,136 students.

The school management found these 40 students, including 18 students who were identified for “needy students support programme” in the beginning of this academic year. The school found the students were in a dire need of smartphones to attend regular online classes. It was also found that not having smartphones affected the psycho-social wellbeing and quality learning of the students.

Two siblings among the 40 students don’t have parents. They stay with their aunt. Their aunt also has two children of her own to raise.

The aunt said it was difficult. 

“They used my phone. They had to wait for one to finish the other’s online classes,” she said, adding she couldn’t afford another phone.

She said smartphones will help the children immensely.

She said she took the responsibility to raise the children after her sister expired back in 2012. 

“Teachers of PLSS had helped the children in buying school materials.”

The PLSS principal, Chimi Rinzin, who joined the school during the lockdown, said the management had explored helping after several discussions with the school committee.

“We are extremely grateful to BRMC for helping us in this pandemic,” he said, adding it was a huge support.

Chimi Rinzin also said that the smartphones will remain as school property and other students could use them in the future. 

“This is the school’s policy.”

He said keeping the phones in school benefits other needy students.

BRMC handed the smartphones to a PLSS teacher in Thimphu on August 4. The gadgets will soon be distributed.

Edited by Tashi Dema