You can almost hear the wind screeching through the broken windowpanes of an abandoned school in Baypam village in Udzorong, Trashigang.

The once bustling corridors and classrooms are silent today. Located amid tall pine trees, the overgrowth covering the structure gives the place an eerie ambiance.

It was in 2004 when residents of the village ferried construction materials from across the rivers in Sherichu, Mongar. Some 60 households voluntarily contributed labour for 140 days to help extend and relocate the community primary school in the village.

Besides labour contribution, former tshogpa, Yeshi Dorji said that an additional Nu 4,000 was also collected from the 60 households in the village to complete the construction works.

Udzorong’s first community started with about 70 students at the Baypam community PS in 1981. With the growing number of intakes each year, the community decided to expand the school. The school was relocated in 2005.

After 11 years, the school was closed in 2016. By then there were only 14 students left at the school.

“Nothing was discussed on the closure of the school or the transfer of the students to the new central school in Udzorong,” said Yeshi Dorji. “Neither the parents nor the gewog officials were informed by officials from the central school.”

The village residents questioned the move to close the school. “Officials said that there were not enough students to study at the school and it would have been expensive for the government to operate the school with limited number of students,” said a resident.

The request was also made to the education minster during his recent visit to the village. “We requested lyonpo to help us reopen the school but he said there were not enough students,” the former tshogpa said.

Yeshi Dorji said that if the school were reopened, students from places like Mankhar, Gangkhar, Baypam, Gonpa and Lenchi would make up the required strength. “If we could reopen the school, it would be easier for parents in these villages to send their children here rather than to the central school.”

One of the parents, Karma Tshomo, said she regrets sending her two daughters to a central school. “Our children are not getting the required care and attention at the central school,” she said. “Teachers do not recognise the children and they seem to be less bothered when it comes to the health and hygiene of our children.”

Sharing a recent incident, the 28-year-old mother said that one of her daughters fell ill and she was informed at the last minute. “I had to reserve a taxi and travel at night. Other times, when we arrive to meet our children, they are either missing a slipper, a shoe or a lagay,” she said. “At this tender age, I feel that the children should be kept with their parents.”

Karma Tshomo said the school authority allow the parents to meet their children once every three months in the gewog. “This is ridiculous. First they close down our school and take away our children to central schools. And they don’t let us meet our children even during weekends,” she said.

Meanwhile, villagers said that along with the students, the central school administration also took the three feet tall Jampelyang statue, which was a gift from the alumni of the school. “We knew that was not right but no body stopped them,” said another resident.

Another resident, Tshewang Dorji, said that closing the school without discussing with the public and the gewog was unacceptable. “Our parents have put in their hard work in building the school. We cannot let their efforts go to waste.”

The school that had remained open for 11 years is today infested with rats and spiders. What could have once been a rose garden is now a hostile thorn bush. What are left are the names students had scribbled on the decaying pillars of the classroom.

Younten Tshedup | Udzorong