Govt. still exploring options

Yangchen C Rinzin

Schools will not open today, August 1.

Amidst rumours on social media that the schools will reopen from this month, it was confirmed that the government has no plans to re-open schools for Classes VII-IX and XI as yet.

The education ministry issued a notification that no information on re-opening of schools was announced or requested. The ministry also notified, through social media, that it would issue official notification as and when the government decides to re-open the schools.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during a meeting with Parliamentarians on July 30 said that the government was still discussing re-opening schools for the rest of the classes.

“We’ve not taken any kind of decision and we’re looking at the situation to explore options on how to re-open,” Lyonchhen said. “There are schools with Classes from PP-VIII. If we open for two classes then we’ll have to open for other classes and both teaching and non-teaching staff will have to return.”

Lyonchhen said that the government would have to look into this issue, as almost 65 percent of the DeSuups are teachers. “We’ve the most important task in places like Phuentsholing where everyday patrolling is important and we keep receiving issues like shortages of DeSuup volunteers at the borders,” Lyonchhen said. “Re-opening schools would disturb that.”   

Lyonchhen said that if Classes X and XII that was re-opened in July are managed well, then the government will explore options to re-open only Classes IX and XI, or leave as it is, but the government has not been able to decide. “Many had shared similar ideas that even if Classes IX and XI was re-opened it would not make any difference. So, we’re looking along this line.”

Lyonchhen said people must realise that if the rest of the classes re-open, it does not mean it will increase the risk of local transmission, but the rapidity will be high in case of a local transmission.

“We must know this,” Lyonchhen said. “That’s why in the lockdown protocol if we’ve a local transmission, the first steps would be school closures.”

Consultations are being held. On Thursday at the meeting when Lyonchhen asked Parliamentarians to raise hands if it’s all right to re-open only Classes IX and XI or all, there was a substantial agreement on re-opening of Classes IX and XI.

Lyonchhen said that the government has asked dzongkhag/thromde education officers and principals including teachers to conduct a survey as much as possible with the parents to seek their views on the re-opening of schools.

“I personally feel it’s all right to open from Classes VII-XII, but the problem is there are Classes PP-VIII category while we need more voluntary services.”

However, Lyonchhen said that the government’s decision would not change for Classes PP-VI. It will remain closed for the 2020 academic session.

Teaching cost

Meanwhile, about Nu 22.54 million (M) was spent in delivering Education in Emergency during the closure of schools since March 6 and March 18.

Of the total, Nu 371,647 was incurred on stationery for video lessons, Nu 685,652 on food and refreshment for video lessons while Nu 542,308 was spent on sustenance allowance for teachers and officials involved in the lesson recording.

About Nu 1.48M was spent for development of prioritised curriculum and Nu 10.20M for Self Instructional Materials (SIM) that were distributed to those students who did not have access to online education.

The education ministry also spent Nu 884,000 in the development and transportation of SIM materials.

Around Nu 28,000 was also spent on capacity building and another Nu 1.19M for printing of the prioritised curriculum.

Education secretary Karma Tshering said that the prices charged for publication and recordings were on cost recovery modality while other agencies provided their services for free.