Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing   

Phuentsholing thromde will facilitate the transfer of students in the thromde to schools in low-risk areas for the 2022 academic session. The Ministry of Education (MoE) has asked the thromde to inform parents of the options available.

However, it is not compulsory.

Just as the year’s academic session in Phuentsholing is coming to an end, parents were taken by surprise when the schools informed them that they will have to look for schools for their children (PP to Class VIII) in lower-risk areas for the 2022 academic session.

This comes after the Cabinet Secretariat wrote to the MoE asking it to “assess and offer school transfer options to all students of Phuentsholing” to low-risk dzongkhags. The ministry will have to offer the choice of schools to the students and facilitate their admission processes, the letter said.

The MoE will provide options to the parents and students to look for schools and it will also provide all assistance in finding admission for those who cannot find schools themselves.

The message had been passed down to Phuentsholing Thromde schools and the parents who knew about it speculated that it was compulsory and poured out their frustrations.

Students in the four schools under Phuentsholing Thromde have been hit the hardest due to the pandemic and repeated lockdowns since March 2020. Students from Class IX to XII were relocated. Many issues also emerged last year due to the relocation.

Students from Class PP to VIII were left in Phuentsholing and online classes were conducted for them. Not many parents were happy with the online classes. Issues with many students not having mobile phones or laptops were reported.

However, after the longest lockdown ended on August 10, regular classes for students (PP to VIII) resumed in September.

After the news of the relocation, some parents told Kuensel that the school management informed them it is necessary to relocate their children to other schools. Some have been asked to submit the details of relocation by the end of next week.

School Education Director general Karma Galay said people may have misunderstood.

“It is for those people who are interested in putting their children in other schools. We will facilitate,” he said. “It is not compulsory.”

Karma Galay said that if Phuentsholing is affected by the pandemic next year like it was this year, the ministry wants to reduce the number of students who will be affected by lockdowns.

“If there are people willing to go, we will facilitate. We have experience from this year, that’s why we are preparing early,” he said.

A restaurateur, Dechen Wangmo, was confused after she heard about relocating children to a school in a safer place.

“It is a good government initiative,” she said. “But I have a business to operate here. I cannot just request a transfer to safer places like the government or corporate workers.”

A Phuentsholing resident, Tobgay, said parents will suffer equally as much as the young children will.

“Parents will also have to go along to other places,” he said.

It is the 113th day since Phuentsholing last saw any positive cases since the four months’ lockdown was lifted in August this year. Although there are reports of increasing Covid-19 cases in West Bengal, India, Phuentsholing has remained safe so far. However, it is the new Omicron variant that has now been detected in India that worries residents.

A businessman, Phub Tshering, said “Who is not scared? It is just that we have to be more vigilant, follow strict protocols, and maintain hygiene.”

He said that his children are too young and cannot manage themselves in other places.

Migma Tshering, a father of two daughters studying in Class PP, said most of his savings were spent during the last lockdown. Sending children to other schools and leaving their welfare with someone, even if they are friends or relatives, is a challenge, he added.

The only option is to migrate, he said, explaining the government must look for better options rather than asking parents to relocate children.

Meanwhile, schools for Class PP to III finished their sessions yesterday, while exams for Class VI and VIII were completed by November 29. Students of Class IV, V and VII will start their exams this coming Monday.