Yangchen C Rinzin

Teachers from schools in Punakha, Paro, Wangdiphodrang, Thimphu, and Phuentsholing have formed a group called Teachers of Bhutan Volunteers (VToB) to volunteer their services to the government if needed.

This is following the closure of schools in these areas after the first Coronavirus (COVID-19) was detected in the country on March 6.

Requesting the government, the VToB urged the government to call them anytime for support and said that the team is ready to deliver their service in these two weeks.

The man behind the idea, a teacher from Lobesa Lower   Secondary School, Sonam Norbu, said that he got the idea when sitting idle at home and teachers wanted to be involved as much as possible. “That is when I got the idea to form a group to help create awareness on the COVID-19, come up with different contingency plans to help students if the closure extends.”

More than 1,000 teachers have joined the group who are ready to serve any emergency calls even after two weeks.

The volunteers interact through social media applications, Telegram and Facebook. The teachers have already started creating awareness. The messages are shared through parents and teachers’ group in various social media applications.

Sonam said that as the schools would have already lost weeks of lessons, the group has also worked on students’ engagement during emergencies like providing online classes, support students in distress, and remedial and extra classes once school resumes.

However, given the poor access to internet in remote schools, Sonam said teaching online is a challenge so the members have worked on to develop teaching materials for children during the school closure.

“For this, we’re hoping to teach through Bhutan Broadcasting Services for free with technical support from other private multimedia companies,” he said. “This is to ensure teaching is continued should the closure extends more than two weeks.”

Members said that this is the time to make the best use of technologies and make up for the instructional days lost due to closure of schools and give children formal learning channels.  “We ought to do something because schools in Punakha have already lost instructional classes for a week during the tshechu.”

The volunteers are also initiating a voluntary donation drive to help the government buy hand sanitizers for schools in the country. “It’s time to give back and support each other during emergencies,” said Sonam.

“We’re ready to serve anytime and it’ll be beyond COVID-19.”