Yangyel Lhaden

Schools closed right after the first Covid-19 case in the country. When the schools re-opened yesterday for Class X and XII, students and school administrations saw and felt the new normal.

In Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School (LMSS) in Thimphu, “Lapchu, Lapchu” song greeted the students, encouraging them to wash their hands. Everyone in the campus is wearing facemask.

There is something called the new normal rules. What is it?

According to Ministry of Education’s (MOE) guidelines for re-opening of schools/centres, premises should be disinfected; everyone should maintain at least one metre distance; adequate handwashing facility should be available; thermal screening for everyone at the entrance; students and parents should be briefed about new norms before classes start. These are the basics. 

Two little LMSS students, who met after a long time, hugged and walked towards their class. A teacher calls out to maintain physical distance. All of a sudden, it’s a new normal again. Friends must part and keep the distance.

Schools do not have the morning assembly. Students are not allowed to share food, stationery, and have to eat in classroom with their teachers. Academic blocks are colour-coded. The students have to wear colour-coded badges.

All these measure are to avoid prevent transmission of the pandemic.

Karma Dolkar, student of LMSS, said that she was excited to meet her friends and the precautionary measures at the school made her feel safe.

Pelzan Dolma, another student, said that she felt uncomfortable with the facemask.

In Trashigang Middle Secondary School, all 33 students reported to the school. Regular classes based on MOE’s prioritised curriculum took place.

The principal said that the school received two infrared forehead thermometer and soaps from the government. The school bought the sanitisers.

In Bartsham Central School in Trashigang, according to the new rule, 20 minutes time difference between class 10 and 12 students to reporting to school, classes, interval, lunch break, and departure from school is the new normal.

The principal said that all these initiatives were to avoid over-crowding.

In Phuentsholing Higher Secondary School, the principal said that physical distancing was maintained from outside the gate. Because it was the first day of school, the students were entertained with recreational activities rather than delving straight into academic lessons. There were songs and recitation programmes that were done through an intercom.

Some schools, however, opened without infrared forehead thermometer. But students and teachers had to run through physical check up by the health officials.

MOE’s officiating secretary, Karma Tshering, said that the infrared forehead thermometer, soaps and sanitary napkins were dispatched from the ministry to the schools before the school re-opened.