… school-going children walk hours to school 

Yangyel Lhaden

Seven-year-old Kezang Dema, living in Begana walks more than two hours to Kuzhugchen Middle Secondary School (KMSS) every day. Her  parents  drops and picks her from the school. As soon as they reach home, Kezang Dema complains of being tired and collapses on the bed.

This has been the routine for almost two months now. About 20 students in Begana take a long detour to reach school after the bailey bridge that connects Begana chiwog, under Kawang gewog with the Pangrizampa-Kabesa road was removed in February.  

The construction of the bridge is underway

Between March and April residents and students used to cross the river by a wooden bridge constructed by the residents with support from the Department of Road (DoR). With the on-set of monsoon, the wooden bridge was washed away. 

The bailey bridge, built in 1985 with a carrying capacity of 20 metric tonnes (MT), was supposed to be replaced with a steel composite bridge with 70MT. As a temporary measure, a steel footbridge was supposed to be constructed by May. The residents are growing anxious about the slow progress in the construction of the temporary steel footbridge.

The school, gewog offices, and the primary health centres are across Thimchhu opposite Begana.

Residents said the bridge was important to them and it was removed before a temporary bridge was constructed. Earlier, they used the bridge and reached the offices and school in less than an hour on foot. 

Residents who have vehicles use the alternative route via Pangrizampa-Kabesa road to visit the offices and school.

There is a suspension bridge at Changtagang, which is downstream from Begana and closer to Kabesa. School going children of Begana use this suspension bridge to reach school. The distance between the suspension bridge in Changtagang suspension bridge and Begana is four km. The children after reaching the suspension bridge have to climb uphill to reach their school which takes another 20 minutes.Parents are worried that their children have begun to hate going to school. They begin walking to school at 6:30am and arrive by 8:20am. 

Children complained that they could not concentrate in class because they were tired and reached home by 6pm. 

“I hope the suspension bridge is constructed as soon as possible,” one of them said. 

Jigme Norbu’s three children study at KMSS. Dinner time has not been happy for the last two months with all the family members exhausted. Jigme Norbu and his wife take turns to pick and drop their youngest daughter who studies in class one. 

Two families from Begana have rented a place in Kabesa. One of them, Leki Tshering said although he did not earn much to pay two rents he didn’t have a choice. “Moreover, it is summer and the path is muddy with rain. I could not bear to see my children covered in mud and drenched.” 

Chief engineer with Regional DoR Office Thimphu, Chador Gyeltshen said they felt for the residents of Begana and that they had been trying to import prefabricated beams for the temporary steel footbridge from Kolkata. “It is expected to reach within two days.”

Assistant engineer Phub Kinley said as of 4pm yesterday materials entered Bhutan after completing formalities with the Indian customs department.

He said the I-section beam had been stranded in Jaigaon for over three weeks. “After many requests and fulfilling the approval procedures we finally got the approval to bring in the I-section beam to Thimphu.”

Chador Gyeltshen said that the bridge could be launched within three days after the materials arrive.

Edited by Tshering Palden