Phurpa Lhamo | Gasa

Kinley Peldon’s 15 students are home, either in front of a television or on Google classroom. But then, two students—a boy and a girl—have been missing their lessons since school closed in March.

These students are at Esuna village in Lunana, Gasa. The village has just four households. Except for the locals and a few people from Ramina village, no one knows how to reach Esuna.

According to Bjishong Central School’s principal, Karma Sangay, there were six students from Esuna. The students are aged between 7 years and 14 years old.

After the school was closed due to the pandemic, a parent guided them home.

Aerial view of the Esuna village shows a small cluster of houses on a cliff. The village is at three days’ walking distance from the nearest road point in Goenshari. Mobile network almost never connects.

Teacher at Bjishong Central School, Kinley Peldon, said that she had tried to call the two students studying in Class II. She had even asked help from Ramina chiwog tshogpa.

Ramina is two days’ walking distance away from Esuna.

“We think that tshogpa visits the village often. And one time the tshogpa said that the students were listening to radio for lessons,” Karma Sangay said.

Without a guide for teachers to reach Esuna and none coming from their village to Gasa, the Self-Instructional Materials (SIM) have been lying idle in the school for months.

Karma Sangay said that there were teachers willing to visit the village and give lessons to the students. “We don’t have anyone who knows the route to the village. And most people in the village have also left for cordyceps collection.”

Today, with lessons almost coming to an end and the schools preparing for assessments, the only hope to send the SIM materials to the students is during the cordyceps auction in Punakha.

The cordyceps auction is usually held between late July and early August.

Retaining students from Esuna village has also been a challenge.

When the school term began this year, a girl who was to study in Class III did not return to the school.

In another incident in 2018, Lunana Gup Kaka said that four students studying in Genekha Central School dropped out.

He added that all four students were recipient of His Majesty’s kidu. “Every time we get a student from disadvantaged background, we immediately put in letter for kidu. We have been trying to help them.”

The six students of the Bjishong Central School received boarding facilities and kidu from His Majesty The King.

“The students would narrate tales of them hiding their utensils along the way when coming to school. And they would say that they have to climb some kind of ladder when nearing their home. Maybe because of these difficulties, they don’t return once they leave for home,” Karma Sangay said.

Despite challenges, the students have been performing well in school.

A girl in Class IV also received a double promotion.

According to Kinley Peldon, a girl in her class performed well in Class PP and I.

“The students do well. If they do well, we ensure them double promotion,” Karma Sangay said.