Reopening of VII-IX and XI to be impacted if there are more local cases and lockdown is extended: Education Minister

Final decision to be taken by Central Task Force led by PM

The reopening of schools for class VII-IX and XI may not happen for this academic year if there are an increasing number of local positive cases in the country. While classes X and XII will resume if the lockdown lifts.

Education Minister Jai Bir Rai said the ministry has already put up the proposal earlier to reopen school by mid August or September but now that the situation has changed reopening of schools is not possible during the time of lockdown.

Lyonpo said that Prime Minister has already said that the lockdown would be lifted phase wise.

He said that there is no community transmission but since the number of cases are increasing in the country, the students of class VII-IX and XI might have to take up adaptive curriculum and there may also not be reopening of schools.

In addition, he said only few months are left for the new academic year. So the education ministry may also ask the class X and XII to go for prioritized curriculum for this academic year.

However, Lyonpo said the final decision on school reopening will be decided by the government and central task force team lead by the Prime Minister. Lyonpo said that the reopening of schools will be decided as per how the lockdown will take shape in the country, so accordingly the Prime Minister will direct the education ministry.

If the lockdown continues then the class VII-IX and XI will have to continue with adaptive curriculum and for class X and XII, the education ministry might have to re-prioritize the curriculum from the existing prioritized curriculum.

The Education Minister said the lockdown has given birth to a more complex issues like some are day scholars and some are in boarder and on top of that now Phuentsholing has come under the red zone.

“So if the lockdown continues and if there are increasing number of positives cases in the country which make the chance of community transmission higher then the ministry will follow the adaptive curriculum and conduct the examinations accordingly. For class X and XII, they are following prioritized curriculum and if the government directs the ministry that schools will remain closed, then the education ministry will plan accordingly,” said Lyonpo.

The Education Minister said looking at the psycho-socio issues related problems and challenges faced by the students and parents due to the current situation, he feels that reopening of schools is the best solution to all problems. However, the behavior of the virus is unpredictable, so the safety of the children is the main priority for now.

If national lockdown is lifted phase wise, then the education ministry is also planning on how to resume classes for X and XII otherwise there will be equity issues. He said all schools who share borders may be reopened looking at the current situation but Phuentsholing is a special case for now.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said reopening of schools for classes VII-IX and XI looks difficult looking at the current situation.

She said of the total positive cases, 12 have been recently detected. “We still don’t know whether the index case contacted the others, so we will know only after few days. Reopening of schools is not a possibility right now. At this point, it is to look at the risk because the truckers have left Phuentsholing during the time and they have gone as far as six districts,” she said.

Meanwhile Lyonchhen on day two of the lockdown when there was only one Phuentsholing case said, “If we are sure that after the first lockdown and testing and tracing of these two cases (Gelephu and Phuentsholing) and even if it is for a month or two we would like to get them back on campus. This is especially for class 11 as they have never tested the new campus.”

He that for example a student would have taken 11 Science but he would have never experienced what it is to be 11 Science. “So in preparation to go to 12 we would like for these people to be on campus for sometime,” said the PM.

He said class 9 to some extent is okay as what they did in 8 has been upgraded in 9. “Next is 10 where they will continue with the same subjects. But I find 11 to be very critical,” said the PM.

He said the same applies for first year RUB colleges as they have never experienced college campus and they don’t know what is their syllabus.

“What do they learn online as they don’t yet know their syllabus. So we want to focus more on 11 and first year RUB,” said the PM.

On ECCDs the PM said that some have opened based on an understanding between parents and owners and some have not opened.

He said it will depend on if there is community transmission or not. “Till date we do not have community transmission and if it remains so then it is between the parents and ECCD owners. But if there is community transmission then ECCDs will not be allowed to open,” said the PM.  

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