While many students enjoy comfortable hostel life in the various central schools across the country, some students continue to struggle as informal borders.

Dagana is one such dzongkhag where parents construct huts besides the schools for their children. Many students have to walk more than two hours to attend school.

There are at least 175 in four schools who are informal boarders in Dagana. Phekoma Primary School in Khibisa gewog has the highest number of students, 66, of which 39 are girls.  Gumla Primary School also in Khibisa gewog has 49 students, 21 of who are girls. Nimtola Primary School under Dorona has 45 informal boarders, and Kana gewog’s Lungtengang Primary School has 14.

Phekoma School caters to informal boarder in its old classrooms as hostel. They get breakfast and lunch from the World Food Programme mess. The parents contribute dinner. Most students here are from Gibsa, Bagithang and Gangkha. With all students staying as informal boarder, there are no students that walk more than an hour to school.

Parents said that it takes more than two hours for students to walk to school from home. Swollen streams during monsoon and wild animals risked the lives of the students.  With no option left, parents had to request the school for a space within the campus to construct temporary huts.

One of the parents, Kuenzang, has a child studying in Gumla Primary School. From preprimary to class IV the child walked from home to attend school. There was no road then and one parent had to walk children to school to and from everyday.

“It was so trying for little kids to walk so long to get education, so we requested school for a space to construct hostel,” he said.

He added that it is unfair on the part of the government that while there are children who are provided all basic facilities in central schools, children is remote school continue to struggle.

“I feel all students deserve equal facility in getting education,” he said. He however said that with more Central Schools being established across the country, these rural remote communities would be benefitted.

For construction of huts for 14 informal boarders in Lungtengang Primary School, the school provided CGI sheets and electricity cable. Here, the World Food Programme providse breakfast and lunch from the school.

Students’ cooks their dinner and parents bring ration once every two weeks.

Nimtola Primary School has a small hostel constructed with the previous Constituency Development Grant. It caters to its 45 informal boarders. Parents contribute rice for dinner and Nu 500 each annually to buy vegetables and egg.

“I hope the student staying as informal boarders will soon be pulled into central schools. We’ve been requesting Geserling CS already,” he said.

Farmer Kharga Bahadur has two children studying in Phekoma Primary School. His elder daughter walked almost three hours (one way) to attend school for two years before parents constructed temporary hostels within the school campus.

This year, Kharga Bahadur contributed 50kg rice and Nu 2,605 per child to the school. The school uses this money to buy vegetables and eggs. Until last year, parents paid about Nu 700 less because the school did not provide eggs. “Our children get eggs thrice a week and we pay for that,” he said.

Parents in Dagana say that if not all the facilities, the government should look into providing free food to students staying as informal boarders. “We’re not asking for more. Just free dinner for now will be fine,” one of the parents, said.

Dagana’s education sector has complied data of such schools where students attend classes as informal boarders. Dagana already has four Central Schools.

“We expect all these informal borders will be absorbed in Central School later,” deputy Chief DEO Pema Choidar said.

He, however, said that the students and parents might have to wait few more years before the issue is resolved.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang