Community school shutdown shocks parents

But the writing was on the wall, as the remote institute had barely enough students

Education: Unlike students in other parts of the country, the school going children of Banjar village in Mongar had no school to go to when the academic session began yesterday across the country.

After it was found short of one student to meet the extended classroom criterion of 10 students, Banjar community school in Tsamang gewog had closed since February 12.

Worried about their children’s schooling, a group of 12 villagers travelled to Mongar dzongkhag, about 77km from their village, to appeal to the dzongkhag administration to reopen their community school.

They reached the dzongkhag headquarters late last evening and couldn’t meet the officials.  But the parents will have to wait for another day since Mongar gewog where the dzongkhag administration is located, will remain closed today for the gewog’s bye-election.

The gewog will elect its new gup today.

Meanwhile, one of the parents, Sithar Dorji, 50, said they were shocked to find the school closed and handed over to the gewog administration.  He said that no parents were consulted or informed about this decision. “We don’t know what to do now,” he said.

Another parent, Deki Phuntsho, 63, said his seven-year old son is studying in class one. “How can I leave behind my son in a boarding school in Tsamang,” he said. “My son needs a lot of care.”

Tsamang primary school is a day’s walk from Banjar village.

Had the school authority informed them earlier, the parents would have discussed the issue with the district education officer (DEO) and the local government, Kezang Choki, 49, said.

Sithar Dorji also said that the village had 10 students, the required number to start the academic session. “But the school principal issued a transfer certificate to a student who completed class II,” he said, adding that his mother might not even be aware of her child’s transfer.

DEO Dorji Passang said the 26th dzongkhag education conference, held at the end of September last year, had resolved that five schools – Resa PS, Broksar PS, Bakla PS, Banjar PS and Takhambi PS – were unsustainable, and that it would be converted to extended classrooms (ECR) from the 2015 academic year.

But, he said, Banjar PS had no new PP enrollment and has only nine students, four in class I and five in class II.

A note sheet the DEO had submitted to the dzongda for approval states that besides the other students, the school had only one student in class III. “It isn’t viable to have just one student in class III and we’re admitting him in Tsamang PS as boarder,” the DEO had written. “With that, the school will have only nine students which does not meet the ministry’s set criteria to remain the status of even an ECR. The existing students of Banjar PS will be admitted as boarders in Tsamang PS as boarder.”

After the school was closed, its principal, also the school’s only teacher, was transferred to Bajeing PS in Dremetse.

Principal Tsheltrim Dorji said he had informed parents, who had come for to school for the results last year that the school was likely to close because of lack of students.

He also said that he didn’t force the parent of the class two student to go on transfer, and that the decision to issue the child with a school leaving certificate was taken after consultation with the DEO and the parents.

However, DEO Dorji Passang said that, even if the lone class III student had remained in the village school, he would need a teacher to teach him mathematics, English, Dzongkha and EVS. “The quality and knowledge he’d receive here wouldn’t be up to the mark,” he said. “He’d get better education if he joins a primary school.”

By Tashi Phuntsho

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