Students will move by mid-August, 2021
Classes IX to XII students in Phuentsholing are to be relocated to Phaduna in Punakha so that they can continue their second term in the 2021 academic year. The primary students will continue with online teaching and learning in Phuentsholing itself. Phaduna is on the way to Gasa.
There are 890 students, 84 teachers who will be relocated, and 115 students there have already chosen the other schools, while some parents have been transferred to other dzongkhags.
The Education Minister, Jai Bir Rai, said a new under-construction private college has been turned into a temporary school for the students. The construction works are still ongoing, but the major parts are done. A few toilets are being constructed. However, the college construction is fastened with the help from volunteers, the army personnel, DeSuups, and contractors.
Ministry of Education (MoE) has instructed the Thromde Education Office in Phuentsholing to transport the school tables and chairs and other infrastructure to Phaduna by the first week of August.
The reason for relocating students and teachers there is because there is a readily available private college structure in Punakha, and most students are not really interested in going far from their parents, like in eastern dzongkhags. However, now parents and students in Phuentsholing are willing to take the transfer, unlike in the past, where they were too concerned about being relocated.
An official from Phuentsholing Thromde said the students are probably happy now that they will be relocated since they have lost more than 100 days of instructional classes. He said Phuentsholing is an area where community cases are never-ending. If one day goes by without any positive cases, then the next day many cases are detected. The community cases are bound to come so the move that the government took for relocation is the best option for the students.
The Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering said the students will be immediately relocated as and when everything is ready. And the students will continue there until the COVID-19 improves, also the class VIII students who pass, will come to Phaduna in the next academic year.
Now that the school children are vaccinated, and building up their immune system, and in order to minimize the risks, the students will stay in quarantine, and after the quarantine they will be relocated to Phaduna.
The private college will not be converted into a permanent school, but it will be used as school for as long as it is required. The students and teachers will go back to Phuentsholing when it is safe to return.
Phuentsholing Thrompon, Uttar Kumar Rai, said now that students are taking up online classes, some of the students whose parents are illiterate find it hard to learn through online classes. And some students are not able to afford the Internet data for online classes every day. However, the Thromde has raised this issue with the government.
Many parents shared their grievances and worries over buying the items needed for their children in the boarding school with the Thrompon. Although they are thankful for the good decision for their children, but due to the pandemic, the parents of some of the students are badly affected and they do not have any money with them to send off their children.
Some of the parents will have nightmares because they do not even have the money to do the shopping, said Thrompon.
Meanwhile, students in other southern dzongkhags will continue their education in their respective places, as the situation is not as bad as in Phuentsholing.
The whole high-risk area has about 32,000 students, and it is just not possible to relocate these students, as it would require almost 25,000 new campuses. The government has planned to move students from class VII onwards but there are issues with accommodation, however, the government will try to move students of classes VII and VIII. And for primary students, they will stay back and continue their studies in Phuentsholing. Compared to Phuentsholing, Gomtu is classified as a place of lesser risk, said the Prime Minister.
The government is working on an online learning system. MoE has introduced a Learning Management System recently, and many learning features will be uploaded for the students. The government has also discussed the subsidy on Internet data for students with the Bhutan Telecom.
An official from Phuentsholing Thromde said Phuentsholing students were given a weeklong break, after which they will resume their online classes as usual from 2 August. When everything is ready, they will be moved to Phaduna in Punakha and start contact teaching. The tentative date for the move is set for mid of August 2021.
One important reason for students willing to move to Phaduna is that they have been told it is a temporary arrangement and they will be moved back as soon as the situation improves in Phuentsholing.