But there is no data to substantiate the claim

Education: Cordyceps has come as a blessing for highlanders but it is also seemingly proving to be a disadvantage to the youth.

While there is no data to substantiate the claim, many Layaps in Gasa say youth from their locality are dropping out of school to collect the medicinal fungi, cordyceps.

A village elder, Rinchen, said youth are dropping out of school, as cordyceps fetches them good money.

Pem, 19, said her brother dropped out from the 10th standard and there are many like him who stay back in the village after completing class eight and 10. “There are also some who studied up to class 12,” she said. “There are some graduates who left jobs to collect cordyceps.”

While Pem says youth dropping out of school to collect cordyceps is not a good example for the younger generations, village elders like Pai said it is good to have youth in the village, as it ensures that there will be people to stay in the village. “Laya will not have gungtongs (empty houses) if our youth come back to the village,” Pai said.

Education officials said the number of students dropping out of Laya Primary School has decreased in recent years.

Gasa’s district education officer (DEO), Choney Dorji, said three students dropped out of Laya school in 2016. The school at the end of the academic year had 155 students.

He said the number of drop outs decreased after education officials conducted programmes after class hours like indoor games, culture programmes and other activities to keep the students engaged in the afternoon. “This helped to keep students engaged and discouraged them from going with their parents to collect cordyceps and herd cattle.”

The DEO said that in previous years, students took one-day leave to accompany their parents, then extended it and never return to school.

Choney Dorji said the school also provides boarding facilities to day-scholar students during the cordyceps collection season. “When their parents leave for a month-long cordyceps collection in the mountains, the children are sent to hostel. The students return home when their parents return.”

Education officials said electricity and farm road connection half way to Laya also dissuade children from going with their parents to herd yaks.

Education officials said unlike previous years, the dzongkhag education office allotted an adequate number of teachers in the school and also assigned a principal to the school.

In previous years, there were only 10 teachers without a principal. But since last year, there were 14 teachers and a principal.

Meanwhile, education officials also said students drop out of school in Lunana due to transmigration.

Dawa Gyelmo | Gasa