Jigme Wangchuk | Paro

A cold December morning. Soon the schools will close. The hills around are bare and brown already, signs of the year drawing to a close. The sharp winter air cuts into the bones.

Exams are over but the 120-something special students of Wangsel Institute in Drukgyel, Paro have been waiting for the education minister in a smallish, cramped upstairs room that does not open far enough outside.

Tomorrow these little special children will head home for a break, but today they are all excited because their school is getting a good measure of teaching-learning materials that have been in short supply all these years.

Seventeen laptops, seven projectors, and twelve  projector screens—visual learning and teaching is difficult without such modern equipment.

The gifts from the Belgium Lions Club, part of Lions Clubs International, a network of volunteers who work together to answer the needs of communities faced with challenges is deeply appreciated here and so valued.

A dance troupe from Yangchen Lugar Performing Arts comes swaying in with prayers and good wishes for all. It’s a welcome dance, the traditional Bhutanese way.

This dance-packed event could have been better organised but when one has to do so many things with challenges myriad—from accommodation to difficulties that come naturally when dealing with special children, who is one to complain about it all?

Anyway, the mood soars and is painted with beautiful movements of traditional dance and heart-touching songs every now and then. 

Tea and snacks flow.

The power of innocence and genuine love that flows from the faces of the little children looking out to the future can melt the meanest heart even.

From the ornate seat rises the minister of education, as he does in his unassuming ways.

“Dear children, I am happy to be here because it has always been my wish to be with you. Official arrangements and time have kept me away. I feel rather too guilty about it,” says education minister.

As his words get translated to the deaf language by one of the Wangsel teachers the children nod and smile.

“Please make the best use of these equipment and make us all proud. Aspire to lead because you are capable of leading. Challenges besides, show it to the world that you can do it all the same.” Lyonpo looks and points to the familiar faces.

Two little students at the back have something urgent to settle, it seems. There is an intense exchange of gestures.

“There are challenges, yes, but as a minister I will try my best to address them one at a time. Please take care of yourself and your teachers who love you dearly and take care of you,” says Lyonpo.

The translator does her part and the two little boys exchange knowing smiles. Something like peace that comes from unalloyed contentment beams from their faces.

It was in 2015 that Elien Van Dille, the director for the Lions Clubs International, first visited Wangsel Institute. He is here today to handover the teaching-learning materials to the institute.

“It’s only a small favour from our side. We will come to meet you again,” he says, breathing hard from an undersized gho.

Then comes something that only these special children know what it means.

Jazz hands go up.

An applause!