Budget is not yet allotted for two CS 

Education: With two already in operation and three in the pipeline, the education ministry has added yet another to the list, taking the total number of central schools (CS) to six in Samdrupjongkhar dzongkhag.

There are 11 gewogs in Samdrupjongkhar and the CS to gewog ratio makes the dzongkhag with the highest number of CS in the country today.

The new central school is planned for Orong gewog and is already approved by the education ministry. The Dzongkhag Tshogdu recently endorsed the new school.

Both the Orong lower secondary school, which has 248 students and the middle secondary school with 485 students would be merged into a central school with classes from pre-primary to XII.

However, the CS would be operationalized only by 2017 including another central school in Gapawoong in Dewathang gewog, which currently doesn’t offer boarder facility.

The dzongkhag administration operationalized Gomdar CS in Gomdar gewog and Minjiwoong CS in Serthi gewog in Jomotsangkha dungkhag, this year.

There is a plan to start another two more central schools in Phuntshothang and Mertshala gewogs in Samdrupcholing dungkhag by next year.

These developments have come at a time when rumours has it that a college was coming up in Orong gewog, as pledged by the government. But the plan did not come through when the gewog did not meet certain Royal University of Bhutan’s criteria.

According to sources, there were then talks of the CS in Garpawoong shifting to Orong gewog but after Garpawoong villagers objected to the move, a decision to open a separate CS was made.

Dzongkhag education officer (DEO) Rinchen Gyeltshen said the new CS planned in Orong has nothing to do with these assumptions.

Earlier when they were asked to identify the CS, he said the sector had submitted six possible locations to the ministry including Orong gewog. According to the plan, Mertshala CS was supposed to start first but could not due to lack of hostel facilities.

“We did not receive in writing that all six CS proposals were approved then,” he said. “But recently we got a letter stating we can go ahead with the CS in Orong.”

However, he said, budget for Orong CS and Phuntshothang CS is yet to be approved, and the requirement would be submitted during the mid-term review.

“That’s why we would be operating these schools only in 2017 with the present available hostel and other facilities,” he said.

The government of India (GoI) has already approved about Nu 366.772 million for three central schools to construct about 912 bed hostels, multi-purpose halls, kitchen, utility vehicle, dining hall, staff quarters and classrooms among others.

Garpawoong, under GoI’s small development project would receive about Nu 47.87 million to construct 120-bed hostels.

Rinchen Gyeltshen said having six CS would mean catering to the most remote chiwogs where students still walk for more than two hours everyday to attend schools.

“Some parents enroll their children only because of WFP feeding and CS would similarly encourage parents to enroll their children given the free facilities,” he said. “Orong CS is important because other two CSs are unable to take in all students in their catchment area.”

As per policy, at least 80 percent of students should have access to hostel facilities in CS, which is not happening at present.

However, the DEO said that these developments do not mean that all feeding schools would be closed in the gewogs. There are a total of 6,786 students studying in 24 schools including two CS and seven ECR in Samdrupjongkhar today.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar