Students heading to school (Photo Courtesy: Asia News Network)

School reopening plan put on hold due to lockdown

On Friday Education Minister Jai Bir Rai had said that schools in the country for VII-IX and XI was supposed to reopen in early August but due to uncertainty of community transmission, the government delayed reopening of schools. He had said that the schools would be reopened by mid-August or by September.

However, even at the time the condition was that there should be no cases of community transmission coming up until then.

However, now with the case of a 27-year-old lady from Gelephu testing positive for COVID-19 after being released from quarantine he said that the school reopening for the remaining classes have been postponed for now and now there is no date.

Lyonpo said he hoped that the schools could open by August itself but now it would not happen and the MoE would have to weigh the various pros and cons.

He said that a lot would depend on if the woman had infected others or not. He said that if there is a serious lockdown then even class 12 and 10 may have to go back to online classes.

On the other hand, he said if the lockdown is lifted with no serious issues then class 10 and 12 could resume.

For the other classes though the government would have to take a look and decide.

He said that for the private ECCDs that had opened it would be between the private owners and parents.

The Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering also said the same thing about ECCDs saying it is between the private ECCDs and the owners once the lockdown is lifted.

Earlier Lyonpo said the Ministry of Education (MoE) was ready to resume classes for VII-IX and XI and it was also ready with all the health protocols, teachers and prioritized curriculum when the schools reopen.

 The Education Minister had earlier said the ministry does not have any problem with reopening of schools except for a few schools wheremaintaining social distance and following up on health protocols will be a problem because of the huge number of students.

 Lyonpo had said that the ministry proposed to the government that the schools can be reopened from August 1 but the government could not decide whether to reopen or not at the time because of the uncertainty ofcommunity transmission. “The government at the time worried that if schools reopen, children would be acting as vectors to take the virus to the parents and it is very important to look into this,” said Lyonpo.

With community transmission the main worry then it will now be even more difficult to open schools now with the Gelephu case.

He had said another reason is that the country needs to maintain the basic essential food items, so export and import will continue and again there is high chance to bring in virus through such imports and exports.

Lyonpo had earlier said the government may also make a few changes in the reopening of schools. He had said there is a chance that classes for just IX and XI will resume and classes from VII to VIII may not open.

Lyonpo earlier said “If there is community transmission in Thimphu, all schools will be closed in Thimphu while schools in other dzongkhags will be open. But if the country gets locked down, the schools will also remain closed for all.”

The minister had also said that all the teachers and supporting staffs are in the schools except for teachers of primary and secondary schools who are doing duty at the border areas.

But then if the schools reopen the teachers who are in the DeSuup duty might have to return back to schools. Almost 50 percent of teachers are trained Dessups and at least 20 percent of teachers are in the border areas. Studying the current pandemic and situation of the country, the education minister is hopeful that the schools will reopen.

The minister had earlier expressed that reopening of schools will help all the students, parents and community as a whole. Lyonpo had said psycho-socio issues of the community and the students will improve and then there will be feeling of continuity and normalcy and students would get the opportunity to interact with their friends and teachers.

 “I am very excited to see the new normal and as per the global standard, Bhutan’s education efforts are among the leading ones. The only thing is coping up and adapting to the new normal within a short period of time. It was quite difficult but then the ministry is striving every day. We should be able to not only adapt but excel in a new normal from the 2021 academic year,” the education minister had said.

“Now we are convinced our students can adapt to the new normal, the ministry’s next target would be educating parents, public, and policy makers to the new normal,” said the education minister.

Lyonpo had said the ministry is also getting monthly reports from the teachers as to how the primary schools are doing. “So far they are doing well,” said the minister. He said primary education in rural parts were doing well because the teachers visit them in their community. The teachers counsel the students and parents and that reducesthe psycho-socio issues in the rural parts.

“It is very sad that the children are committing suicide and are victimized by the natural calamities. But it is the responsibility of all. That is why a village is required to raise a child,” Lyonpo had said.

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