Education: The Goenshari primary (community) school in Punakha is in dire need of maintenance four years after it suffered severe damages from an earthquake.

The issue was discussed at the recent dzongkhag tshogdu during which local leaders of Goenshari gewog sought financial help to repair the damaged structures from the government. They said that should another disaster strike again, the school could collapse completely.

Goenshari gup Kinley Dorji said when the school was damaged in 2011 they requested the government for maintenance budget. However, he said they were told that the education ministry would shift the school and upgrade it with hostels.

“A bigger plot for the school construction was identified and all paperwork done after which tenders were also announced,” he said. “But the education ministry has not released the budget even now.”

Gup Kinley Dorji said the locals built the school through woola (voluntary labour contribution) in 1991.

It is a two-storied building with classes from PP-VI. Following the earthquake, the school walls have suffered severe cracks while ceilings and floors are also in a bad condition.

Local leaders said that although the school is more than two decades old, it lacks basic facilities. As the school does not have a single computer, school officials said they have to rush to other schools or gewog centre to print examination questions or other documents.

Punakha’s chief district education officer (DEO) Lemo also said the school is in a poor state and that the structures were risky for both teachers and students.

Lemo said that a majority of the schools in Punakha also needs maintenance but Goenshari school would be the priority.

The dzongkhag tshogdu suggested that the gup and DEO approach the education ministry again as the school has to run from the existing structures till the ministry decides something.

Meanwhile, villagers of Goenshari expressed dissatisfaction over the government’s plan to club the school with either of the central schools of Bjishong, Gasa or Kabisa in Punakha. They said Goenshari is the only school in the gewog catering to five chiwogs, gewog staff and road workers in the gewog. The school has 97 students from Class PP to VI and eight teachers including a principal.

Some parents feel that closing down the school could lead to an increase in dropouts. The parents also requested teachers and local leaders that the school be upgraded instead.

As a majority of the students walk to school for about two to three hours, most stay in makeshift structures near the school. The school provides breakfast and lunch through the WWF feeding programme while parents contribute Nu 1,000 a year each as vegetable expenses.

Dawa Gyelmo, Punakha