It has been almost a decade but the dispute over a school between the two chiwogs of Namchalla and Tashiding in Dagana has not been settled. The dispute has become more pronouced after the central school policy came into effect.

The people of Namchalla want the existing Namchalla Lower Secondary School (LSS) upgraded to a Central School while the people of Tashiding want the school in their locality, Tashiding LSS, upgraded. The people in Namchalla say that their school built in 1974 deserves upgradation being one of the oldest in the country and because it has more students, most of whom are from far flung villages and come from financially disadvantaged families.

According to the 11th Plan, Tashiding LSS was built about nine years ago and was to be upgraded to a central school. But during the 2013 parliament and recent local government election campaigns, the people of Namchalla were promised that their school would be upgraded.

However, neither the school in Namchalla nor Tashiding has been upgraded. The issue was once again raised during the agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji’s visit to Dagana. The people requested the minister to convey their concerns to the education minister.

Namchalla is almost an hour and a half’s walk uphill from the gewog centre. The school has 238 students.  More than 30 students walk for around four hours just to get to the school.  The parents of these children have set up camps built of tarpaulin sheets outside the school campus on private land. These students are considered informal boarders.

One of the parents, Suk Man Subba, 56, had come to visit his three children studying as informal boarders. He also has five grandchildren, from Gangzab village, studying at the same school as informal boarders.

He visits his children once every two weeks to buy for them rations and vegetables for their dinners. Breakfast and lunch is provided by the school. However parents contribute Nu 100 every month to the school to purchase vegetables.

He said that without a hostel it is difficult to send children to school and farming parents cannot afford to send children to schools that offer hostel facilities in other parts of the country. “Keeping children as informal boarders is a risk, especially for girls as they could be vulnerable but we’ve no option,” he said. “A central school is the only solution to our problem.”

Moreover, he added that he believes the government’s main aim in coming up with a central school policy was to do away informal boarding and make education more affordable for the financially disadvantaged. “There is no better reason than to provide a central school here,” he said.

Namchalla Tshogpa Hiralal Gurung also said that for the safety of the children who have to walk long distances to come to school, Namchalla should be upgraded. “ Namchalla has adequate space and the number of children for a central school,” he said.

However, the people of Tashiding argue that Tashiding LSS has new infrastructure that is suitable for a central school. Moreover, according the 11th Plan, Tashiding LSS was supposed to be upgraded.

A parent, Norbu, said that upgrading Namchalla into a central school was a campaign pledge whereas upgrading Tashiding LSS is part of the 11th Plan. “But both has not come through and the ultimate losers are the people of Tashiding gewog,” he said.

Meanwhile Dagana’s chief education officer, Tshewang Penjor, said the education minister visited Dagana after the agriculture minister’s visit but the people did not raise the issue.  He added that in the 12th Plan a few schools will be upgraded into central schools. However, it has not been decided which schools will be upgraded.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang