After the announcement by the Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering that there will be no more lockdowns despite the rising number positive cases from the community, the teachers that were relocated from Phuentsholing to Phaduna were hopeful that they would be called back to Phuentsholing for the 2022 academic session.
Students and teachers from three schools in Phuentsholing were relocated to Phaduna.
It was learnt that the teachers faced difficulties for the last one year. They said their mental health was affected after being apart from their families, and with no proper housing facilities in Phaduna.
A teacher from Phuentsholing Middle Secondary School (PMSS) said he has had sleepless nights due to housing problems, and the commute to work which is a 3 km walk very day to get to school. The teacher also said they have not received any time off to meet their families.
The teacher said they were told that they were being just being relocated, but recently they were given transfer orders and relieving orders from PMSS too. This has caused many of the teachers to panic since their families are still in Phuentsholing, he said.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) had assured them that they would be sent back to Phuentsholing as soon as the situation normalizes, and they were even more hopeful after the vaccination of 5-12 years old children.
He said having students of three different schools is difficult to manage as well, and they are always worried if the students might get infected.
Another teacher from Sonamgang Middle Secondary School in Phuentsholing said he has not been able to focus on his personal issues, like not being able to send his son for higher studies. He said most of the teachers are in the same predicament.
“With the folded hand, we are requesting the government to send us back to Phuentsholing and many will get united with our families,” he said.
The teacher said if the lower classes can be open then children of higher classes will be safer too, and in addition they have got COVID-19 vaccinations and booster doses as well.
Many of the children have also expressed to go back to Phuentsholing since they are more comfortable being home with their parents than being in Phaduna, he shared.
Another teacher said that the teachers are badly suffering in Phaduna and want to be reunited with their families. The teacher also said he could not even help his mother when she was very sick. Most teachers are of the view that there is no balance between their professional and personal lives, especially when they have ailing family members and pressing issues to attend to.
He said neither the teachers nor the students are able to give even 20 percent in schoolwork because no matter how much the teachers support or counsel the students, the academic performance is not very good. The students feel isolated from their families, which has caused them to lose interest in their studies, he added.
He said the problems they have faced in Phaduna cannot be expressed enough.
“We are very much helpless since we are not getting any support, and we are hearing different information from different agencies. We are in a mental strike, and almost all the teachers are not in a position to hold here, and some of the teachers are even planning to resign,” said the teacher.
Teachers came to Phaduna for the betterment of the students, but now, the education ministry informed the teachers that some of the teachers have been assessed, and they are going to be transferred to other dzongkhags, like Pemagatshel and Zhemgang and so on. The teacher said this is like a punishment for them even after sacrificing so much.
The teacher expressed that they will be able to give their 100 percent if they are back in Phuentsholing and are reunited with the families. He said they can fulfill their purpose, but by being in Phaduna, they are not able to. And after the introduction of the BPST, the workload has become very high on the teachers here.
A teacher from Phuentsholing High School has been taking his four-year old daughter along with him in the school and teaching students. He said the entire year in Phaduna has been a very difficult year. He has also appealed to education ministry to grant the transfer of his wife, a teacher in the lower secondary school in Phuentsholing, in the same dzongkhag, but instead only he has been transferred to teach in Wangdue.
He said he fears for the safety and well being of his four-year daughter when she has to be left alone in the staff room, which is one of the main reasons that he has not been able to teach the students well in the classroom. He has also applied for EOL, but he did not get that either.
The teacher said teachers’ welfare is zero. He said almost all the teachers want to go back to Phuentsholing except for a few teachers since they have their family with them and some are from the same dzongkhag.
The teachers were not given housing or accommodation, and therefore, they had to go on house hunting everyday. Earlier they were told that all the accommodation or houses for teachers would be ready before leaving Phuentsholing, but once they reached Phaduna, there was nothing as they were told. Many teachers are staying in combined housing setup, he said.
There are 54 teachers in Phuntshothang School in Phaduna, of which 30 teachers are to be transferred to different dzongkhags. Teachers are perplexed over why they are being transferred.
“Well, if the education ministry plans to keep teachers in Phaduna then there should be facilities, such as housing facilities which should be nearby to the school, which is important, and the other thing is Internet facilities,” he said.
A teacher from the lower secondary school said though the intentions of relocating the school was good, however, the students want to continue their education in Phuentsholing.
She also pointed out that when all schools identified on high-risk areas are allowed to remain in their own places, why is it that only Phuentsholing schools are being relocated? Why are Thimphu schools not relocated despite many community cases?
She added that many students have expressed the difficulties during their stay in Phaduna to her. The students are unable to study in a jam-packed hostel, as it is easy to get distracted with the huge number of students studying together.
Besides poor study situation, the students are not able to get sufficient pocket money from their parents suffering from financial crunch during the pandemic.
She shared that students have dietary issues and get sick and without parental care they get depressed leading to poor academic performance. There is a lack of playfield and also very porous fence where students can easily bunk classes.
The students think studying in Phuentsholing is a better option than relocation since many of them are experiencing boarding school life for the first time, and they struggle to cope up with that. Moreover, some parents have to spend more on shopping for their children. Hence, staying in Phuentsholing is better than relocation.
On the other hand there are a few students who are happier to study in Phaduna than in Phuentsholing. They said they can better focus on their studies as they prefer contact teaching than the online classes. They have difficulties concentrating during the online classes.
Two teachers from Phaduna also got in touch with the paper and they said they would rather stay at Phaduna.
One of them who is also a parent of a student at the school said parents have already ordered the uniform and they are worried if other variants show up.
The second teacher said there are quite a few who do not want to go back and those wanting to go back do not represent everybody.