Lhakpa Quendren

Gelephu – After three years of dedicated study in the non-formal education (NFE) programme, Tshering Choden, a resilient 73-year old, has finally achieved her lifelong dream of learning to read Dzongkha.

Tshering Choden stands out as the oldest among the 14 NFE graduates who recently completed their three-year programme at the Zomlingthang and Pelrithang NFE centres in Gelephu.

With her educational journey complete, Tshering Choden now dedicates her morning and evening hours to prayers.

Reflecting on her journey, she expressed a sense of regret for not attending school during her youth, despite government insistence at the time. Joining the NFE programme allowed her to fulfil her desire to grasp the basics of Dzongkha, and she is immensely grateful for this opportunity, which has empowered her to read prayers.

Tshering Choden also highlighted the practical benefits of the programme, as it has equipped her with the ability to understand numbers and the English alphabet, which proves invaluable in her daily life.

“Now, when I visit the hospital, I can read the room numbers. This is helpful,” she said.

The three-year educational journey was far from easy for Tshering Choden, without immediate family support. Her commitment to completing the programme spanned over a decade, and she faced numerous challenges along the way. Balancing her responsibilities as a caretaker for her sister’s children forced her to take breaks from her studies. She had to change educational centres multiple times due to various obstacles.

Tshering Choden recounted the initial struggles she faced, including the difficulty of holding a pen and writing in her books. She remembered how her early attempts at writing often resulted in torn paper. Even experimenting with thicker paper didn’t help. “But now, I am happy I finished the programme despite these challenges.”

Originally from Bumthang, Tshering Choden now resides in Zomlingthang. She owns a five-acre plot with more than 1,000 areca nut trees. Her focus has shifted from farming to devoting more time to prayers and prostrations, leading a contented life in her single-storey building, which she also rents out to another family.

Sharing her personal history, Tshering Choden said that after a 26-year-long marriage, she chose not to marry again after a divorce. Tragically, her only son passed away at just two and a half months old, making her journey all the more remarkable in its strength and resilience.