Covid-19 positive students in stable condition as of now 

Yangchen C Rinzin

Reopening of schools would be known by next week although the rest of the dzongkhags apart from Thimphu and Par0 are in the green zone.

Schools all over the country are still considered closed until further directives, according to the education secretary, Karma Tshering. With some dzongkhags relaxing the nationwide lockdown, parents had been questioning if schools would resume normal classes.

The education ministry, the secretary said, is working on a strategy to continue education for Classes IX-XII and is exploring whether to continue through online or normal classes.

Karma Tshering said that after completion of seven days extended lockdown, the government would announce whether to reopen school or not as a part of smart unlocking.

However, reopening of schools might differ from dzongkhag to dzongkhag, as the situation is different this time, according to the secretary.

“Our strategy to continue school will also differ from red zone to green zone to yellow zone and how the situation would unfold in the coming days,” Karma Tshering said. “But ultimately, it will depend on the directives of the government, which is expected to be announced soon.”

As Thimphu and Paro are seeing an increasing number of positive cases, the secretary said teaching might have to be continued through online classes for another month or so.

The ministry is also working on how to go about with examinations in different schools including schools where students have tested positive for Covid-19 and schools that fall under the yellow zone.

Although many schools completed trial examinations for Classes X and XII, some schools were in the middle of the trial exam when the lockdown was declared. A few schools have not even begun the trial exam.

Examination for Classes IX and XI is scheduled in mid-February. The academic session for Classes X and XII will end in March after the board exams.

Should teaching continue through online platforms, Karma Tshering said that the ministry is working on a plan to provide free internet data for all students.

Students in boarding schools are in the self-containment zone,  but there are no classes conducted as of now. Teachers stationed in the schools are providing counselling sessions and engaging students in various activities.

Meanwhile, Karma Tshering said that the 72 students who tested positive and are in isolation at the Terma Linca Resort in Thimphu are in good condition.

He said that while no online classes are conducted for the students in isolation, the ministry is providing counselling services.

Of the 72 students who tested positive as of January 3, 30 are from Thimphu, 29 from Paro, two from Bumthang, one each from Haa, Trashiyangtse, Sarpang, Wangdue, and three from Punakha.

Four positive students are students studying abroad but are currently in Bhutan.

A counsellor said that students are sent messages in a group chat on a daily basis asking them to share if they are going through any stress or personal issues.

“It was difficult for them in the beginning and some students were stressed out,” a counsellor said. “However, students have been sharing that they are able to cope up because almost all positive students are from the same class and are friends.”

The counsellor said that they console each other and students shared that it would have been difficult if they had come from different classes. “Even those students who are quarantined are also in touch with counsellors including parents.”

Officials from the National Mental Health are also in touch with students to provide counselling services.