Yangchen C Rinzin 

The education ministry has decided to wait until the end of seven-day lockdown before deciding on reopening the schools.

The decision comes after senior bureaucrats from the ministry met the Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering yesterday.

Lyonchhen has instructed education ministry to strictly follow the national lockdown orders until the end of December.

School education director general, Karma Galay said it was decided that for now schools would be advised to continue contact teaching in a self-containment zone for boarders, and online teaching for day scholars only if possible.

“We’ll ascertain the situation by end of this month to make a concrete decision since it’s too early to decide on the reopening of schools right now,” the director general said.

“Since there are challenges to continue teaching in containment zone or through online, school administrations can sort out among themselves,” he said.

However, school administrations are strictly advised not to compel any teachers to leave their families and move into the school campus to work in containment mode. Most of the teachers today live outside the school campus.

All schools were shut down following a nationwide lockdown on December 22 while schools in Thimphu were closed since December 20. Classes PP-VIII have completed the academic session last month.

Karma Galay said that the next move would depend on the situation and advice from the technical advisory group. The ministry would issue further directives after December based on the situation.

However, many principals shared that while the directive issued have asked them to closely observe the lockdown, it also directs schools to continue teaching through online or in containment mode.

A principal from Punakha said that self-containment is infeasible since almost 20 percent of students are day scholars even in the boarding school, and most of the teachers reside outside school premises.

“Movement is restricted and few teachers in the school cannot manage to continue teaching,” he said. “Maybe, we can ask students to revisit their lessons and some activities to keep them engaged.”

Although some schools have finished the trial exam for Classes X and XII, others were in the middle of the exam when the government declared the lockdown. Many principals said that they would continue the exam as soon as schools reopen.

Teachers were of the view that unlike the first lockdown, this time they have at least managed to complete more than 80 percent of the syllabus. 

Classes IX-XII academic session will end in March.

Karma Galay said that dzongkhag Covid-19 taskforce could also come up with plans to continue education. “Situation is different in different dzongkhag this time so they can implement any plans they have.”

With 14 students from Shaba Higher Secondary School in Paro testing positive, district education officer, Ngawang Dorji said that the dzongkhag has also decided to wait for a week.

“We would then plan based on the advice from the National Covid-19 Taskforce.”

A teacher has tested positive from Khangkhu Middle Secondary School.

Ngawang Dorji said that since both are day schools, they were advised to revert to online teaching.

Positive students were moved to isolation facilities at Termalinca resort in Thimphu and two sections of students from both schools are quarantined.