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The education ministry will establish 30 more central schools (CS) in consultation with the dzongkhags, according to the education minister, Lyonpo JB Rai.

This, he said, was to bring equitable access to CS services for a wider range of students across the country.

According to the minister, a CS review the ministry conducted this January found inequity and unequal distribution of resources among CSs and non-CSs, which created wide gaps among the facilities provided to students.

He said that of the 167,108 students studying in private and public schools, only 50,309 students studying in the existing 63 CSs as of September 2018 benefitted from the freebies (facilities) CS provided.

“The review indicated a gap where the rest of the 116,799 students were deprived of CS facilities like free uniforms, school shoes, mattress, blanket, socks, sports gears, bed sheet, the bedcover, pillow, pillowcase, and towel apart from stationary and meals,” he said.

Lyonpo JB Rai also said the new additional CS would be established with criteria for establishment, which would include location, availability of existing infrastructure, and adequate space for future expansion. “The review showed there were three CSs in a dzongkhag that had a 4,000 student population while another dzongkhags with 14,000 students had only two CSs.”

He said the review was based on the first joint Cabinet-GNHC Commission meeting held on December 2018 that directed education ministry to assess and review CS programmes and re-opening of community and primary school.

“Some of the reasons for the review was the misuse of resources by students, underutilisation of resources or freebies, lack of parental guidance, impact on the economy of the local community, and to identify needy or disadvantaged students,” the minister said.

He said the ministry received feedback that some of the freebies were misused, wasted, underutilised. “The review found that expenditures were done on the resources that many parents can afford.”

According to the review report, many students had to travel a long distance and enrol as boarding students in the CS, and concerns were raised that young students had to live away from their parents. “The communities have also said local businesses are impacted because the procurement of freebies is outsourced hampering the local economy.”

The review report also stated some freebies should be done away, as parents can afford it.

Lyonpo JB Rai said that is why the ministry would also come up with the criteria set jointly by the education ministry and the dzongkhags to identify genuine, needy and disadvantaged students to provide CS facilities.

He said the ministry would look into providing CS facilities to all the boarding schools, revise the facilities, and extend the facilities to other non-CSs. 

The ministry has identified 55 larger boarding primary schools, which require additional facilities, of which 12 are primary campuses proposed for segregation from existing CSs. These schools would be provided with CS facilities.

This was because the review found that the quality of services provided in the CS was not good with issues related to health, hygiene, hostels, meals, water and sanitation, and supply of resources to the schools.

It suggested providing primary schooling near the community to avoid young students from staying away from their parents, by improving infrastructure and facilities in remote and highland schools.

Based on the findings, the ministry also decided that bedding set for all the students in boarding schools would be provided once in five years, provide uniforms to identified disadvantaged students based on the criteria set, and provide caregivers and washerman in all primary boarding schools.

Stationery would be provided to all students except for students in secondary schools in urban areas.

“More than the free facilities, we are more concerned about providing the right nutritious food to the students, which is why the government has approved the stipend increase. Good bedding, good teaching-learning environment and IT facilities are our concern right now,” Lyonpo said.

The ministry, however, will have to explore budget for the 30 additional CSs.

Meanwhile, the budget notification for the financial year 2019-2020 mentioned that since the free items provided in the central schools are under review by the government, the ministry and dzongkhags should not carry out the procurement until further notice.

Yangchen C Rinzin

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