Chhimi Dema  

A teacher of Mendrelthang Extended Classroom in Lunana received a call from a Singaporean asking if she could help the school after the movie, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, was screened internationally.

The teacher, Namgay Dorji, suggested to the Singaporean that she could help them with a chalkboard in the classroom.

He has been serving in Mendrelthang ECR for the past eight years. He was posted to Lunana in 2013.

Namgay Dorji said distance makes it difficult for anyone to bring anything to the village. “The helicopter service is expensive.”

The Singaporean woman, who did not want to be named, and a British woman named Sharon financed the chalkboard and also paid for the helicopter services.

Sharon also provided the students with gloves, beanies, and scarves in 2019.

The film shot in Mendrelthang ECR was nominated for the 2022 Academy Awards.

Namgay Dorji said that he was delighted to hear that the film got an Oscars nomination.

He received messages on his social media account showing appreciation for his role as a teacher in Tshojong, Lunana.

“The film showed the challenges faced by teachers and students in the classroom. This has allowed a lot of people who thought that teachers living are here earning the difficulty allowances and getting rich change their thoughts,” Namgay Dorji said.

Lunana is located at an altitude of 3,400ms above sea level. Lunana experiences heavy snowfall during winters which keep them snowbound, as the mountain passes become inaccessible to any travels.

There is no electricity and residents use solar-powered energy.

Namgay Dorji said that the film presented the “true” lives of Lunaps. “People think that every Lunap is rich and has money. This often isn’t the case.”

The tough journey to Lunana makes everything expensive. In Lunana, 25 kilograms (kg) of rice costs Nu 4,000, a kg of milk powder costs Nu 1,000, and an apple will cost Nu 100.

A student featured in the film is Pem Zam.

She is one of Namgay Dorji’s first students in the classroom. All the students in the classroom started their education journey with him.

The school currently has two teachers, a cook, and 15 students.

“The film inspires me to do more,” he said. “Whenever my motivation as a teacher weakens, I remember the film, and I am motivated to work harder thinking that I am making a difference in the lives of my students.”

The teacher said that if the film wasn’t made, the struggles and challenges of people living here would never have been understood by anyone. “We are grateful to the director for his work.”