The school sees only two students seeking admission annually

Education: Although started with a capacity to enroll about 100 students, the Gomphu Kipailing School of Astrology in Trashiyangtse is still struggling to rope in a decent number of students.

Started in October 2011, the school today has only 17 students studying the art of astrology, which takes four years to complete. The first batch of seven students graduated recently.

The school has good infrastructure that includes four classrooms and dormitories. It provides free education, uniform, food and lodge. However, most of these facilities are under utilised.

Principal Lopen Tashi Tenzin said there were around 20 monks and lay monks who showed interest when the school first started. Within few days, the numbers dropped to 10.

“Most of them wanted to study astrology for a couple of months and return, which we couldn’t afford to provide because then the whole purpose of the school would fail,” he said. “There have been instances when students left their studies half way.”

He said people had wrong perceptions that after getting enrolled at the school, they would have to live the life of a monk for the rest of their lives.

“Besides astrology, we also teach students those lessons taught in Shedras, English and computer,” he said. “Students can either pursue further studies at the Pangrizampa College of Astrology, get into teaching or return to their villages as astrologers.”

Despite the free education and potential good opportunities in future, the yearly enrollment numbers are far from good.

“On an average, we see about two new students a year,” Lopen Tashi Tenzin said. “This year, five new students were admitted and we can only hope for the best in future.”

To improve the situation, the school is seeking help from the dzongkhag administrations of the six eastern dzongkhags. Interested candidates from chiwogs and gewogs are sought for admissions in the school.

Recently, the Trashiyangtse and Trashigang dzongkhags have committed their support, one of the teachers, Lopen Dorji Ledra said.

“About two candidates from every gewog in these two dzongkhags would roughly come to about more than 40 new students,” he said.

However, concerns are also shared on how the school would be able to sustain and handle more number of students. For those monks who are enrolled with the Zhung Dratshang, a monthly allowance of Nu 1,633 is provided. In case of lay monks or laymen, the school has to mange its own funds.

“It would immensely help us if the gewog administration could also provide allowances equivalent to the ones being provided by the Zhung Dratshang,” Lopen Dorji Ledra said. “We are hoping if they could financially support candidates from their respective gewogs for four years through the Gewog Development Grant.”

Meanwhile, monks studying in the school said that the difficulty in learning astrology is a challenge.

“We find astrology more difficult than English or computer,” a 17-year-old student, Kesang Dorji said. “Unlike other subjects, astrology lacks in depth explanations and more interpretations.”

Including the Gomphu Kipailing, there are two astrology schools and a college in Bhutan. The other astrology school is located in Gelephu.

By Tshering Wangdi,  Trashiyangtse