More than 25 students of Darla Middle Secondary School (DMSS) in Chukha, who come from far-flung villages, have been staying in rented houses to attend classes.

Mon Bahadur Bhujel, 18, is one of them. He shares a small room with his two sisters. Two beds are crammed in the room while a table is used for study and cooking purposes.

They are from Chumilakha, Darla, which is about 7kms away from the school. The class IX student said their parents pay Nu 1,000 a month as rent.

He said that staying near the school helped him score good marks, as he gets time to study. “Otherwise, I would have to walk to school every day.”

He said that he wakes up at five, cooks breakfast and lunch for school. “Cooking is difficult sometimes.”

Another student, Padam Singh Raika, 19, also rents a room. He pays Nu 600 a month. He is also from Chumilakha and shares the room with his younger brother and sister.

Constructed in 1961, DMSS is one of the oldest schools in Chukha. It has 860 students today. The school does not have boarding facility.

Students staying on rent face ration shortage, forcing them to take rations from nearby shops on credits. Their parents clear the bills later.

School principal, Tshering, said that students, who stay away from parents, are hardworking and disciplined. He said that school authorities keep in touch with the students and monitor them.

The principal said that although there is a need for a hostel, the proposal has to come from the gewog administration.

Darla gup, Mil Kumar Mongar, said the gewog administration has already proposed to upgrade DMSS to a central school. “We are positive about it.”

If the central school proposal does not come through, the gewog would propose for free lunch to the students.

The chief dzongkhag education officer in Chukha, Kinley Gyeltshen, said there is nothing confirmed about the central school at present. “It is just at a proposal stage.”

Rajesh Rai | Darla