A long walk to school

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Students residing in Rishor, Dewathang are feeling that the distance to their school, Garpawoong middle secondary, has suddenly increased.

What took about 30 minutes to reach school and home now takes about five hours on foot. The bus service, the SD Eastern Bhutan Coal Company Limited provided, ceased operation after the mining activities ended on December 31.

The school was supposed to provide boarding facility from 2018, but the construction of a 120-bedded hostel failed to complete on time.

In the meantime, those who can afford pay to send their children to school hire vehicles or pool car. For others, it is additional work.

Sonam Pemo, 41, said she now wakes up around 4am and prepare lunch for her daughter as she goes to school at six in the morning. Garpawoong school is about 10 kilometres away from the Rishor village. Her daughter studies in class VIII. “My daughter is too tired to do anything after school. She skips dinner and goes to bed straight away,” she said.

Worried that the walking distance would affect her studies, she arranged a car for Nu 1,500 a month together with other parents.

Another parent, Pema Lhaden, said her child could not walk after trying for three days. “I am now paying Nu 900 a month for the transportation.”

Residents are already worried about the monsoon. “Heavy rains, falling boulders and landslides are common in our area and it might be unsafe for students,” said a parent who couldn’t afford to pay for transportation.

“Our children are walking because we cannot afford to pay Nu 900 to 1,500 a month for the transportation. It would help us if the school could at least arrange a bus service,” another parent, Dawa Dema said.

However, works to construct the hostel will soon continue with the legal battle between the dzongkhag administration and the contractor, Delek Builders Private Limited, sorted out.

Samdrupjongkhar dzongdag, Tharchen Lhuendup, said the reconstruction of the hostel would start soon as they got reinforcement order from the High Court (HC) and dismissed the case recently. Re-estimation works are being carried out today.

He said that the dzongkhag is targeting to complete the hostel within a year and provide boarding facility from next academic year.

Delay

The construction was delayed as the case was in the court. The dzongkhag administration had applied for a reinforcement order in the dzongkhag court.

The construction of the 120-bedded hostel started in 2016 and was supposed to complete in August 2017, but the contractor was made to execute the works on penalty as he failed to complete the works on time.

However, the dzongkhag administration terminated the contractor in May 2018 as he failed to pay the penalty. The dzongkhag then took him to the court.

The dzongkhag court, last year, rendered a verdict in favour of the dzongkhag administration and asked the contractor to refund about Nu 12.323 million to the dzongkhag within three months.

However the contractor appealed to the HC.

The HC issued a reinforcement order and dismissed the case later because the contractor failed to report to court besides several summons.

The government of India funded about 32M for the construction of the hostel.

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