The ECR is likely to close down from the next academic session

Education: Despite having to walk for more than an hour to reach his school, nine-year-old Kinley Wangchuk’s parents are not willing to send him to a central school.

Kinley Wangchuk is one of the eight students of Tahogang extended classroom (ECR) in Tobesa gewog, Punakha. The ECR is located six kilometres (kms) away from the Thimphu-Wangdue highway road below Lampelri.

There are five girls and three boys at the ECR. Five are from class III. Two are in class II and one in PP. The ECR was started as a primary school but was downgraded in 2011 after the school was left with only around 30 students.

Namgay Zam, who joined the ECR more than a year ago is the only teacher catering to the eight students.

The government planned to close the ECR because of the drop in the number of students every year from 30 students in 2011 to 15 in 2015. During several public consultations, parents were given the option to send their children to Dechen Tsemo central school in Thinleygang, under the same gewog.

The talks however failed when about 15 parents refused the proposal according to dzongkhag education officice.

“We even tried to convince the parents by informing them of the benefits of sending their children to a central school, but they still refused,” Punakha dzongkhag education officer, Lemo said. The dzongkhag had no choice but to continue the ECR with just eight students, one teacher and a caretaker.

Officials from the dzongkhag education office said that the ECR however is likely to close from the next academic session as it would be left with only two students.

After the school was downgraded, the principal’s cottage, one unit staffroom and the academic block were handed back to the government. Youth Development Fund is now using the structures for the local programmes.

Namgay Zam said despite the few number of students, teaching all the students at a time is challenging. She applies multi-grade teaching skills to teach them.

“I start with the PP student, and after giving him some classwork, I move on to others and return to check on him and go back to other classes,” said Namgay Zam.

Despite fewer friends, Kinley Wangchuk enjoys attending the ECR. “I don’t like studying in a class with many students, as the older boys tend to bully us,” he said.

Although he starts his journey to school around 6am everyday, Kinley Wangchuk is happy to be home with his parents than to be in a central school.

Similarly, Tenzin Choki from Boegang also walks for an hour to reach the ECR every morning. Unlike other parents, Tenzin Choki’s mother tried sending her to a boarding school in the beginning of the year, but she could not get an admission in boarding.

Dawa Gyelmo | Punakha