Settlement: If you are travelling along the Wangdigang-Tingtibi bypass in Zhemgang, you will see a beautiful hamlet by the side of the Mangdechhu.

This temporary settlement of about 15 makeshift huts is called Tagabi and people from the villages of Tama and Berti stay there to educate their children.

But the settlers do not own the land. Most of them are able to live on the land as caretakers while some pay rent to the landowners.

Their children attend Tingtibi lower secondary school which has no boarding facility.

Tagabi is about a kilometre away from Tingtibi town. Berti village is located 4km away from Tingtibi and Tama about 17km.

Without schools in the two villages, parents of the students say they have to stay in Tagabi so that their children do not have to walk for long hours.

The settlers also claim that they have to resort to living in makeshift huts, as they cannot afford to pay the rents in Tingtibi town.

Phuntsho, 73, from Tama is one of the temporary settlers. However, he has been living in Tagabi for about 20 years. “I have been looking after my grandchildren and other children from my village,” he said.

Phuntsho has three grandchildren staying with him. The children’s parents are in the village, working in the farms. “A child is expected to complete their studies from Tingtibi school in nine years but some took more as they failed,” he said.

Like all other settlers in Tagabi, Phuntsho goes to his village during the summer and winter vacations with the children.

Sangaymo, 66, from Berti is another settler. She looks after three grandchildren.

Sangaymo said she has to stay on other’s land for the sake of the children, as the road to their village gets blocked every summer. “People cultivate maize along the road and there are dangers of bears attacking the children,” she said.

She added that her daughter pays rent to the landowner. She grows some vegetables on the vacant land near her hut. “It’s sufficient for our consumption.”

Bokto, 40, is also from Berti village. She stays in Tagabi to educate her children. Her daughter is studying. “My son left school last summer to become a monk.”

She said she goes to work in her farm during the day. “It’s easier for me to walk but not for my children.”

Meanwhile, tourists who visit Zhemgang to birdwatch also use Tagabi as a camping ground.

Nima Wandi | Tingtibi