… the younger ones will remain to continue classes online or in containment mode

Yangchen C Rinzin  

The education ministry will move 888 students of Classes IX-XII and around 78 teachers and supporting staff from Phuentsholing Thromde to Phadhuna in Punakha beginning August 15.

The first batch of students and teachers are expected to arrive on August 15. 

The ministry has finalised the plan to relocate the students to a private institute, which is under construction at Phadhuna after the Prime Minister negotiated with the proprietor.

Phadhuna is about 8km from Punakha Dzong towards Gasa.

The school will then function as an independent higher secondary school under Punakha dzongkhag with a principal and two vice principals from Phuentsholing.

Both students and teachers will be quarantined in the school for two weeks followed by a Covid-19 test. While students would remain as boarder students, teachers will reside outside school campus.

The four public and two private schools in Phuentsholing have remained closed since the government declared lockdown in Phuentsholing on April 17. Students are continuing lessons online.

With the lockdown still on, students did not have the midterm examination for Classes IV-XII and were rated based on the continuous formative assessment through the ongoing online classes.

Considering the importance of contact teaching and the gravity of the situation, school education Director General Karma Galay said that the ministry decided to relocate the students, so that their studies are not hampered.

However, he said, two private high schools, Yonten Kuenjung and Norbu Academy, which are already operating in containment mode will continue.   

He said that students of classes IX and X of Chumithang Middle Secondary School will also operate in containment mode from August 2.

Classes PP-VIII in Phuentsholing will continue their lessons online. The government has also decided to provide them with free data packages for a month including a learning management system, which is expected to cost about Nu 1.7 million (M).

Although 83 buses have been arranged to transport students and teachers, the ministry is yet to discuss whether to relocate at one go or in batches. The ministry will also transport all classroom furniture from Phuentsholing schools.

As for bedding and bunk beds, the ministry has collected from other schools across the country that have extra beds and mattresses.

The schools are also working on which teachers to be sent since some teachers teach both primary and higher grades. A principal shared that none of the parents have requested or submitted any letter to reconsider the decision so far.

“We have already sent out the message to parents beforehand that if they want they can send their children to different schools in other dzongkhags,” a principal said. “So, they knew the relocation was going to happen.”

Some schools saw more than seven students were taken to other schools by their parents and more than 20 students from lower grades.

Six cooks would be arranged on an interim period until the Royal Civil Service Commission approves the recruitment of cooks.

Meanwhile, almost 50 workers are putting final touches on hostel rooms. The ministry plans to keep everything ready by August 10.

The relocation is expected to cost the government almost Nu 28M including the cost of kitchen and dining utensils, procurement and transportation of bunk beds, and dining tables and chairs, among others.

Stipend for students alone is expected to amount to Nu 15.834M and Nu 1.443M for travel claims for the staff.

The ministry will seek advice from the Covid-19 task force whether or not all drivers, who will drop students and teachers, should be quarantined before sending them home.

Kuensel learnt that the proprietor and the government are in the process of negotiation in terms of acquisition of land and infrastructures. Initially, it was planned as a college of technology, however, the plan changed after Royal University of Bhutan did not issue the affiliation certificate.

Edited by Tshering Palden