Education: While many parents put in all their effort to get their children educated, 55-year-old Kota from Khenadang in Zobel gewog believes in not educating his children.

Kota is a well known figure in the village because he refuses to enroll his children in school. He withdrew his two elder sons, who had been studying in classes pre-primary and I, from school a year ago.

Despite efforts made by the gewog administration, dzongkhag officials and villagers to convince him to send his three sons to school, Kota has stuck by his decision.

The school, Khenadang Extended Classroom (ECR) is located right below his house. Khenadang is about 30 kilometres from Pemagatshel.

A strict ECR in-charge and punishments were some of the reasons he provided for making his decision. He said he did not want his children to be punished.

“Even if another school provides free education, uniforms and stationary, I will still not send my children to school,” he said. “When I have not let them join a school located so close by, why would I send them to a school far away.”

The father said he would rather let his children live the life he has lived. Kota is a farmer, ironsmith, and has worked as a labourer when required. He added that his children can also beg.

“If I have managed to survive as a farmer and as an ironsmith making patangs, I’m sure they can also survive the same after my death,” he said. “But I will not enroll my children because I feel all the teachers are the same,” he added. “They are strict and beat our children.”

Kota said that he has already decided to send his eldest 10-year old son as a truck driver’s handy boy when old enough.

However, his children don’t agree. They are still interested in going back to school. But they feign disinterest in front of their father, according to the ECR teacher and a few villagers.

The ECR in-charge Sangay Wangdi refuted the father’s allegations. He said he has been trying to convince the father to send his children back to school ever since he withdrew them.

Sangay Wangdi explained that it was not Kota who enrolled the children in the beginning, but the eldest son who came himself to the school requesting he be enrolled despite not having the required documents. He was later enrolled with the help of the gewog administration.

“We tried our best to bring back the children but to no avail,” he said. “Instead he was rude with us.” He added that they even offered to bear the school expenses because the eldest son was an intelligent student.

The in-charge wrote several letters to the authorities and even conducted meetings with him in front of the villagers and gup, yet Kota did not budge from his position.

“We can’t force him,” he said. “But he keeps giving different excuses to different people. We’ve almost given up.”

Meanwhile, Pemagatshel Dzongdag Phuntsho said that since the education policy states 100 percent enrollment, he personally went to convince the father, but Kota did not agree.

The dzongdag said the father reasoned he needed his children to work in the field. He also attributed medical conditions which the dzongkhag offered to address by getting him medical treatment at no cost, but to no avail.

“But what he said about punishment from the school is untrue. We’ve looked into it,” said the dzongdag.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Pemagatshel