It is early morning. Anita Tiwari rushes to the water tap, brushes her teeth and washes her face. She returns to the room with a jerry can full of water.
She prepares kewa datsi in the traditional mud oven. “This is the easiest curry to prepare,” she says. While the food is getting cooked, she goes to the books to revise the lessons.
She then wakes her younger brother and tidies the room. By 8am, both are ready with packed lunch to go to school. Phuntenchu Primary School is about three minutes walk from where they live.
Anita and her brother live in a temporary hut in the school campus. Anita’s parents built the makeshift hut so that their children do not have to walk long distances to school.
Adjacent to Anita’s room is Budhiman Tiwari’s room. There is another hut inches away where Buddamoti Subba lives with her son who studies in class PP.
“We’re a colony here. Away from home, we help each other in times of need,” Anita said.
Like Anita and Budhiman, there are 10 students staying as informal borders in Phuentechu Primary School. While some have built makeshift hut in the school campus, some stay in a rented house. Most of these students come from Wangthaling and Sanomailey villages.
Budhiman almost gave up schooling when he had to walk about six hours to school. There was no other school nearby and he could not get admission in other boarding schools. “I’m happy that I live near school. I get a lot of time to study and play,” he said.
He will complete class VI this year. Tsirangtoed Central School, the nearest school, will be his next school. “I’m already so much excited to go to a boarding school,” he said. While Tsirangtoed, which would soon be made a central school, has begun receiving facilities such as a bus.
More than 30 percent of students walk more than two hours to school. The school doesn’t have day-meal facility, neither is there a hostel to accommodate them.
Principal Nidup Wangdi said that the students are comfortable living on their own rather than walking long distance. Students often missed classes when coming from home. “It is worrying for parents as well as school, especially during monsoon when river volume increases,” he said.
Teachers discourage students who walk more than an hour to school from carrying heavy bags of books. Students find it difficult to even carry packed lunch. “It would be been helpful if the government could provide breakfast and midday meal for students,” the principal added.
The principal also said that after the students began staying as informal border, their academic performance has improved. Student’s participation in co-curricular activity has also improved.
On the other end of Tsirang, there are another three students in Patshaling Primary School who stay as informal borders.
Tsirang’s education officials said that once the Tsirangtoed school starts functioning as a central school, students from Phuntenchu Pry School will be pulled in.
Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang