It was sometime in 2014. Tshering Dorji, the principal of Arekha middle secondary school in Chukha promised his students an edutainment tour if they scored more than 80 percent in their written mid term examinations.

The principal wanted to motivate his students to study well. “I realised that a lot of students were not serious about the mid term examination, which was due in two weeks. I decided to do something to motivate them to study,” Tshering Dorji said. “I told them about rewarding them with an edutainment tour. They didn’t believe me but was convinced later and started studying.”

Tshering Dorji promised the students a tour of Paro and Thimphu because the students had told him about wanting to see an airplane fly and visit a game parlour at the Sharee Square (a shopping complex) in Thimphu.

That year, 11 students had scored more than 80 percent in the written examination.

“I was surprised because I was sure they wouldn’t score 80, as they had less time to study,” he said. “I thought may be one or two students would manage and I can take them on tour myself but they proved me wrong. I had to keep the promise.”

That was how the school’s edutainment tour began. Most of the 11 students were visiting Thimphu for the first time.

The following year, the number of students scoring 80 percent and above more than doubled to 29. Motivated and curious, they had prepared hard to make it for the next tour.

“I was again surprised but I was happy that they were studying hard if not for edutainment but for themselves too,” the principal said. “There was no way I could discontinue the tour because a lot of parents shared that their children have started studying like never before.”

Arekha School is about 40km from Bongo gewog in Chukha. Last year, 31 students participated in the tour. Few students have consistently scored more than 80 percent.

Today, the first question Tshering Dorji always gets from new comers is if the school still has the edutainment tour.

This year, it was the school’s fourth tour and 35 students visited Thimphu and Paro on August 11. The students met Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Education Minister Norbu Wangchuk on August 14.

Lyonchhen encouraged the students to continue to study hard and appreciated the school principal’s work.

However, Tshering Dorji, said, that although the idea was to encourage students to study it was challenging to find sponsors for the tour. He said several financial institutions and companies rejected his proposals for support.

“After several attempts, Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited agreed to help and they have been continuously supporting us,” he said. “They have always provided food and accommodation at Phuntshopelri hotel and Olathang hotel in Paro. This time, Yangphel also helped us with transportation and sightseeing.”

He said that he is thankful to Hotel Dam View and Mercury Travels for supporting the tour with meals for the students.

Students, Kuensel spoke to said the tour has not only motivated them to study hard but also made them realise that hard work pays. A class eight student, Pema Zangmo, said when she heard about the tour she couldn’t believe but when it happened, she studied and made it to tour this time.

“I was motivated when I saw the first batch leaving for the tour and I promised to study hard,” another student who was in Thimphu, Tashi Lhamo, said.

Besides this initiative, Principal Tshering Dorji is known for initiating the opening of Rangtse Community Primary School in Haa and who carried a physically challenged girl to school everyday so that she could get education.

“The role of teacher is not only to teach but also to be creative and motivate students to study,” Tshering Dorji said. “I have always tried to motivate students to study in any ways anywhere.”

Yangchen C Rinzin