Schools could close but not for long: PM

Yangchen C Rinzin

Should there be Covid-19 community transmission in the country, the government will ensure that there will be no nationwide school closure this time, according to Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.

The government will make sure schools do not remain closed for an entire academic session like the previous year.

However, he told Kuensel that a nationwide school closure is a must for a few days during the lockdown to study the situation.

But schools in a particular area where local transmission happens will remain closed. “If there’s a community transmission in Thimphu, there’s no way we can run the schools in this locality. We have to close the schools.”

Lyonchhen added that if the people gave up on the pandemic, there is no way to keep schools running.

“We’re still in a preventive mode. So, if there’s a positive case, we have to have lockdown and schools will have to be closed too,” Lyonchhen said. “After studying the situation, we’ll reopen schools in other areas.”

Last year, irrespective of the active positive Covid-19 cases, Classes PP-VIII remained closed across dzongkhags since March 18.  More than 100,000 school-going children had to stay at home.

Despite some schools in highland and far-flung areas where there was not a single positive Covid-19 case, schools proposed to re-open but that did not happen.

The education ministry saw more than 700 dropouts last year after Classes IX-XII were re-opened in July, which was attributed to the school closure for a longer period.

The education ministry continues to track all students and has told them to continue the education from this academic session.

While more than 400 students decided to leave school because of domestic or health issues, more than 90 students got married, 49 found jobs, 37 became monks or nuns and 21 joined the armed forces.

Schools in Thinleygang and Wangdue, Shengana and Khuruthang in Punakha and Dorokha in Samtse, will reopen only from April 1.

Lyonchhen said it was not easy to have a concrete plan as to how to keep schools running amidst these risky times.

“How do we make sure the local transmission doesn’t affect the academic session? This is in individuals’ hand and we all must work together to keep the virus at bay so that students aren’t disrupted,” Lyonchhen said.

Lyonchhen said that it was all about how to make sure that there was no local transmission.

“The answer is: don’t be complacent, and practice safety protocol to protect our children,” he said. 

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