Phub Dem  | Paro

She wants to be an engineer, this one, a 10-year-old with cropped hair wearing a nylon full kira. She puts it in her journal.

The classroom is a tiny one, like the little ones therein prattling, here at Dop-Shari gewog centre where students from Pre-primary to four are learning together. In all, there are 10 of them.

Kinley Pelmo Gyeltshen, a student who returned home from the USA because of the Covid-19 pandemic, proposed to guide 10 students with e-learning. She had a bitter experience coping with online learning herself. She wanted to help these little kids. E-learning is a new concept in Bhutan. Primary students without “literate” guidance suffer the most.

From Shari, Kinley saw how the students were struggling with e-learning. So, along with her two cousins who are students of Ugyen Academy, identified the students whose parents are illiterate, lack guidance and do not own electronic gadgets.

Besides helping the students with regular assignments, the tutor’s engage the students with cocurricular activities such as drawing, dancing, reading and listening skills, among others.

Youth Development Fund and UNICEF help Kinley with the programme to guide remote learning. 

Although more than 30 students came to register, Kinley said that the ceiling was set at 10 to maintain Covid-19 protocol.   

The sisters provide the students with their mobile phones, laptops, and reading materials.

Ngawang Yangchen Lham, a grade four student, spends her weekdays writing online assignments at the gewog centre.

Like many students, she last attended school until March, before schools had to be closed due to the Covid-19. She has been learning via Wechat and Google Classroom.

Although she is a bright, articulate student of Gaupel Lower Secondary School, she found e-learning complicated. “I used my mother’s phone to access the assignments on Wechat and Google Classroom. But I need help to upload and send my assignments in Google Classroom.”

It has become a routine for Ngawang and her mother Rinchen Wangmo to visit neighbour’s house to seek assistance in using Google Classroom every night.

Ngawang said the lessons aired on BBS were challenging. “I had a tough time before the tutors turned up. I thought I would fail for sure.”

When asked about his experience with mobile learning, Sangay Wangchuk, a grade four student from the same school said: “I struggle a lot.”

He was a “below average” student in school. And he had wasted more than four months helping his mother with the household chores. The tutors said that he hadn’t submitted any of his home assignments before he joined the class at the gewog.

Sangay Wangchuk, unlike his friends, did not have access to social media. When his father lost his phone, Sangay could not access lessons. “Then I lost interest in studying. The lessons on BBS are not very helpful.” Now with the guidance from the tutors, he has scored 88 percentage.

Yangday, a mother of three, asked her children to repeat next year. They refused. Yangday is a caretaker of Dop-Shari Lhakhang and does not own television. She sought help from the educated lot to teach and guide her children.

Yangday said that the guidance programme at the gewog came as a blessing. “Now I don’t have to worry about my children’s education.”

Another parent, Pem, said: “I hope the schools reopen soon.”

As her school reopened, Kinley Pelmo Gyeltshen had to discontinue the programme. But then, her idea is to remain in touch with her students through social media and try to assist them virtually. “I look forward to some sponsors who can give the kids their unused phones and so that I can guide them at this critical time.”