Bajo primary schools buckle under admission pressure

Besides an abundance of legit candidates, they have to deal with a host of underage kids too

Education: While schools in rural Bhutan are increasingly facing reduced pre-primary (PP) admission, opposite is the case in places like Bajo in Wangdue.

Even after closing of admission in December last year, schools continue to receive admission requests.  Some parents, whose children didn’t even meet age requirement, have bought school uniforms and reach their wards till the school gate every day.

“Everyday my daughter gets dressed for school. She insists that she must go to school,” said a parent, whose daughter did not get admission.

Another parent said that she took her daughter to school several times wearing the school uniform, and requested the school to accept her. “Nothing has come of it.”

Children who could not get admission, were those born after June 2009, who will have to wait one more year to be admitted to school.  The age limit for admission to pre-primary in Wangdue is five years and six months.

When PP admission was conducted in December last year, schools in Wangdue, especially those near Bajo town, strictly implemented the admission policy.

Each school has an admission committee, comprising six to 10 member teachers.  There are three pre-primary schools in Bajo area – Wangdue primary school (WPS), Tencholing Primary School (TPS) and Rinchengang Primary School (RPS).

TPS issued 117 admission forms and admitted 152 children to class PP.  The schools principal, Phuntsho, said that the school had initially planned only three sections for class PP.  A section has to be added, after the school received more students than expected.

“The school had to reject 20 children, who didn’t meet the admission requirement,” said Phuntsho.  The school has 949 students in all.

Namgay Dorji, the RPS principal, said the school issued more than 30 admission forms and admitted 31 children in class PP.  The school has 186 students and 12 teachers.

“We still get calls from parents enquiring about admission chances,” said Namgay Dorji.

WPS teacher, Kinley Yangden, who is also a committee member for PP admission, said the school asked for both census report and health card of the children to stop parents from manipulating children’s age for admission.

The school issued more than 200 admission forms and admitted 81 children to three sections of class PP.  Last year, the school had four sections for class PP.  A section had to be reduced after some teachers were transferred to Bajo Higher Secondary School (HSS). The school has 960 students and 35 teachers.

Wangdue’s education officer said that Wangdue Lower Secondary School (LSS) was downgraded to a primary school from this academic year to help adjust increasing number of pre-primary students.  Students studying in classes VII and VIII grade at Wangdue PS have now been transferred to Bajo HSS.

Some parents were not happy with the number of children admitted by WPS.

“The school was downgraded to lower secondary school to help adjust more number of pre-primary children, but it has decreased the number of PP students instead of increasing,” said a parent.

Admission pressure has been growing after the commencement of the two-mega projects in Wangdue, said district’s education officer, Tshewang Penjore.

The admission policy is set by the ministry and agreed upon by principals at the annual principals’ conference.  Unlike in the urban centres, pre-primary admission is comfortable in rural schools.

Punatsangchu I is constructing a primary school in Jimthangkha, where many project staff stay.  Education officer said that, after the completion of school, admission pressure on schools in Bajo would be reduced.

By Dawa Gyelmo , Wangdue

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