Govt yet to decide on school reopening: Education Minister

The government is yet to decide on whether to reopen schools and colleges by June or not.

Education Minister JB Rai said as per the National Disaster Management and the Health Ministry’s data, the re-opening of the schools is being kept on hold for now. Lyonpo said if the lockdown in India is extended then the government might have to come up with further plans and strategies to ensure it is safe to reopen schools and other educational institutions.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering had said earlier that the government might need a little time to study the COVID-19 scenario as it depends from country to country. The lockdown in India is of a particular concern as the situation across the border has an impact on Bhutan.

Lyonpo JB Rai said that more than 170,000 students are affected and especially the students who will be appearing for the common exams. Lyonpo said college students are better than the rest as they are able to understand their lessons through various e-Learning platforms. The only problem they face is the Internet disruption in between lessons as a huge number of students are also learning online.

Meanwhile, most teachers and students are worried that they are being over-burdened with assignments since it has been more than 70 days that the educational institutions have remained closed.

They are also positive that they will be able to cover up the missed classes by doing away with all the holidays if the schools are reopened by next month.  The parents and students are anxiously waiting for the government’s decision on re-opening of schools.

During the COVID-19 press brief, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said the government has been having discussions on the re-opening of certain sectors of the society but at the same time, government must understand the risk itself is determined by what is happening in the region, what is happening around and what is the nature of the epidemic in the country. So these factors will determine the vulnerability or the risk of re-opening and scaling up or scaling down.

Lyonpo said the risk along the borders are higher and now based on how the situation in the southern borders will evolve in the next few weeks, the government will have a strategy.

Lyonpo said as of now the government is quite confident that there are no local transmission but one cannot assure that there is 100 percent no local transmission, so it has to be a decision that is good for the nation and for everyone.

Lyonpo said from the health side, the ministry is very clear about the public health measures that needs to be put in place and that recommendation is already being shared and there are discussions going on at the cabinet level.

In the meantime there has been some confusion as the School Health and Nutrition Division under Ministry of Education received directives from the Prime Minister on 8th May to prepare re-opening of the schools in a phased manner from June, 2020 onwards. The most important conditions to be met as stressed by Prime Minister is mandatory prerequisite provisions of enough drinking water and availability of the hand washing stations in the schools, as preparedness to combat against covid-19 pandemic, stated in the notification.

The ministry conveyed the directives of PM to Dzongkhags and Thromdes to initiate supply of piped water or create storage facilities, and also install hand washing stations rationally as per the number of students and staffs before end of May. Since the work has been carried out immediately on priority bases, Prime Minister has asked the ministry to use the stipend saved from the month of March-May 2020.

The ministry has asked dzongkhags and Thromdes to carry out the work as required at the earliest so that the schools can be re-opened safely as and when the government decides on the date.

Some have misunderstood this to be a notification to open schools by June but the government has clarified that no decision has been taken yet.

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