The sensitization effort on the importance of education and building of better school facilities is working in Laya and Lunana. The number of school enrolment is increasing each year, while fewer and fewer students are leaving school.
There are two Extended Classroom (ECR) in school (class PP to III) and one primary school in Lunana, one Early Child Care Development (ECCD) and one central school in Laya. Likewise, Lungu has one ECCD and one ECR.
The figures from the dzongkhag show that there are 61 students in three ECR, 40 students in two ECCD, 38 students in Lunana Primary School and 155 students in Laya Central School.
Chief Dzongkhag Education Officer (DEO) of Gasa, Sherab Gyeltshen, said that there were many school dropouts in Laya in the past because the parents needed help from the children to gather cordyceps.
“They (students) were also made to drop school because the eldest children in the family were made to look after their younger siblings since the parents go for cordyceps collection. In addition, they also have to go for yak herding to faraway places,” he added.
The inception of ECCD in Laya and Lunana has helped a lot, with the yearly enrollment between 155 to 160 students.
“Now with better education services, sensitization and with also a hostel facilities, the number of dropouts has gone down drastically,” the DEO said.
In the past, the students from Thangza under Lunana had to travel all the way to Mendrelthang for education. The ECR at Thangza has helped ease the problem and the enrollment number has increased as well.
“Lunana Primary School has a boarding facility, and thereby, the education is going well in Lunana with fewer dropouts,” the DEO added.
Principal of Laya Central School, Khedrupla, said that the school dropout rate has dropped drastically now.
He said, “Some of the given reasons (for leaving school) are the health issues of the children, opting for monastic education by the parents and wanting to support their old parents back home.” He added that some students also left school to marry and start their own family.
There were 11 students who left school in 2015. The number dropped to only 2 school leavers in 2016, and further, 4 and 3 students dropped out in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
“To bring down the dropouts to zero, we advocate to parents, on importance of education, during meetings and impose upon parents to send their children to school, not to just get job but also for lifelong skills and education,” Principal of Laya Central School said.
Screening of educational movies, educational activities to keep children engaged, enhanced vocational clubs, speakers or guests to talk on the importance of education, provide free amenities and screening of documentaries on cordyceps are useful in the sensitization process.
“We also encourage both students and parents to keep their children in the hostel from the beginning of the academic year,” he added.
Laya Gup Lhakpa Tshering said that the number has dropped in Laya compared to the past years. He said the community now realizes the importance of education, and therefore, more children are encouraged to attend school than gather cordyceps.
There was only one school in Lunana earlier. Students had to walk for hours to get to school. “Parents felt that it was risky to make their children walk everyday to school and there were no one to guide them to school,” he added.
Currently, there are two ECR in the school and the number of enrollment has increased with minimal dropouts.
“Today, the walking distance for the students has gone down to 1 and half hour in a day (back and forth). Generally, 80 percent of the dropouts are due to longer walking distance,” he added.
They said consistent sensitization programs are to be carried out to gradually bring down the dropout number to zero.
28-year-old Chimmi Pem, a mother of three, said that her two elder children were taken out from school so they could take care of their youngest sibling at home. “I want them to study, but for now, I need them at home because we need someone to look after house when we go for cordyceps collection, and when we go for yak herding in seasons. With development, everything may change,” she added.
19-year-old Pem, who recently got married, shared that she wanted to study but since her parents want her to look after the house and to have a family of her own, she decided to leave school when she was in class 5.
“I could not study, but now I am coming to know the value of education, and for that matter I will make sure to educate my children in future,” she added.