Yangchen C Rinzin 

Private schools in the country are hoping to reopen by mid of May, at the earliest.

Representatives from the Private School Association of Bhutan (PSAB) at a meeting yesterday resolved to appeal to the government with the proposal. It was one of the numerous resolutions.

Representatives said that the schools would adhere to the health ministry’s advisory and comply with all the Covid-19 safety measures.

PSAB secretariat officials and principals and owners of schools discussed the impact on schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

To supplement the proposal, the schools suggested holding lessons on alternate days to avoid gathering of all students. “While for boarding schools, the school will ensure students are inside the school only including teachers like quarantine,” a representative said.

The proposals come amidst debate on paying school fee, and the issue popped out in the social media. Although owners felt fees were justifiable because teachers were involved in the e-learning throughout, parents felt otherwise since schools have remained closed.

PSAB general secretary Tshering Dorji said that although schools were not responsible for the closure, they also cannot put parents in the loss.

“This is why we had to come together and come up with amicable solutions for such situations. We cannot ask proprietors to lay off teachers.”

If the government rejects the appeal to reopen by May, the schools resolved to seek support from the government on a cost-sharing basis between government, owners and the parents. A committee has been formed with members from schools to analyse the operational costs.

“If the schools do not reopen soon, the owners would be able to bear full salary for teachers only for the next two months,” Tshering Dorji said. However, he said, if the situation worsens beyond two months it would be difficult to sustain and pay teachers.

The general secretary said that schools also resolved to come up with alternative learning solutions for e-learning and submit to the education ministry.

“We will request the ministry to acknowledge and approve what we come up with,” he said. “Parents have shared their dissatisfaction over tele-education.”

However, if none of the resolutions come through, PSAB resolved to seek an extension of learning duration when the schools reopen.

Tshering Dorji said this means if schools reopen by June or July, to compensate the instructional time losses, the schools would take classes even during weekends, holidays and vacations or teach few extra hours a day.

“This would ensure completion of syllabus on time. It will also help to teach students and have a basis to assess the students to promote.”

The general secretary said these are only some of the ideas and resolutions made from the meeting. The association plans to compile the recommendations, back them with studies and data.

“We’ll be submitting the resolutions to the education ministry and Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We’re also looking forward to discussing the issues with the education officials.”

Meanwhile, officiating secretary Karma Tshering told Kuensel that education ministry has already started the assessment from Tuesday.

He said the assessment would be based on how actively the private schools were involved in keeping students engaged and the services adopted to ensure students continue the education like e-learning or Google classes.

He said education officials would visit all the 38 private schools and assess the services provided since the schools closed on March 6. It will also collect feedback on the situation faced by the schools because of Covid-19.

“Although we’re yet to complete assessment if the services are found productive, and teachers have continued to work, then it’s genuine. Parents should pay the fees,” he said. “But if such services are not provided then we’ll have to look into it, as schools were closed under the circumstances and not closed on their own.”

He added the ministry would take a decision only after the assessment. The assessment would complete in two weeks.

The ministry is also looking into how to release the fees for class XI in private schools on government scholarships. The official said that the education ministry is waiting for a list from the schools on the exact students they received. “As soon as we receive, we will pay.”