And then the schools reopened…

As in-person classes resume for high school students, we bring you a collection of #covid19stories they shared during their time at home with UNICEF Bhutan.

UNICEF
Students walk to school in Thimphu.
KDupchu/2020/Thimphu
24 September 2020

After months of learning from home following the COVID-19 pandemic scare,  students of grades IX, X, XI and XII across the country are now back to school.

“The news of schools reopening delighted me and hopefully my friends too,” says Dechen Syelden Dorjee, 15. “I am enthusiastic to adhere to the COVID-19 safety protocols.”

The grade X student of Changangkha Middle Secondary School in Thimphu says COVID-19 affects people differently. Although it has impacted global economies, she says that it has also created better opportunities for digitization and created platforms for online classes and meetings.

A young teenager
Dechen Syelden Dorji

“COVID-19 has also taught the importance of interpersonal relationships, cooperation and coordination,” she says. “I'm grateful to my King, the Government and all frontline workers who worked tirelessly to fight the virus for the people of Bhutan.  Teamwork has become the prime solution to curb the spread of the infection.”With the ease of nationwide lockdown, Dechen calls on everyone to strictly comply with the protocols by staying home, reducing unnecessary movement, wearing face masks and frequently washing hands.

“I hope you have the courage to believe in yourself even if things aren't shaping up the way you want them to. I hope you find the courage to be persistent, to try again, to rise, to build yourself when others destroy you.”

Students of grades X and XII across the country resumed classes on September 14.

A teenage girl infront of the Tiger's Nest
Rakcha Chhetri

“I feel blissful to be back to school as I got to meet my friends again and I don’t need to worry about my studies,” says Rakcha Chhetri, 16, a grade 10 student of Motithang Higher Secondary School in Thimphu. “Still, we never know whether there will be a second nationwide lockdown or not.”

While the pandemic has affected everyone, she says it is time for all to reflect on how they have been using their time and make some changes to their lives. “It's time to spend our leisure time with our families, to explore ourselves on internet productively and most importantly a time where we can contribute by just staying home.”

From the eastern district of Mongar, Damcho Lhamo, 15, a student of Mongar Middle Secondary School,  reflects on her lockdown experience as she returns to school. “I am excited to meet my friends after a long time and determined to study well,” she says. “There is zeal and enthusiasm to work harder this time. In any situation, be it the ongoing pandemic or something else, I wish to be a person who never gives up.”

The situation of lockdown might not have been the same for everyone, observes Damcho. “While some were enjoying their time with their family, some may have struggled to feed their family.”

A young girl
Damcho Lhamo

During the lockdown, Damcho says she spent time with her family, helped her little brother with his studies, attended online classes, read novels, learnt from online tutorials, watched new movies and wrote stories.

“However, the greatest achievement during this lockdown is realization. I realised that lockdown could make no difference if one knows how to make it meaningful and productive. That's why it is very important to make the best use of time and opportunities provided to enhance your skills,” she says. “The journey of lockdown becomes fruitful only if we take it positively and regard it as a platform to engage ourselves.”

Unlike the students of grades X and XII who returned to school for the second time during the pandemic, students of grades IX and XI are back to school almost six months after the country reported its first COVID-19 case in early March.

Manjari Adhikari, 17, a grade XI student of Losel Gyatsho Academy in the southern district of Sarpang was elated with the news of schools reopening.

“After the news of local transmission, I had zero hope about going back to school. But when news of reopening of schools floated on the internet, my excitement reached the sky,” says Manjari. “I am so excited to meet my friends, teachers and even more happy to get back on track with my studies. If the schools didn't reopen, the student inside me would have died.”

Manjari says that the ad hoc decision to close the schools wasn't so exciting as students had just joined school in late February. “It has happened for the first time that students in our country are experiencing such a long term break from school.”

A teenager
Manjari Adhikari

The first four months of school closure were easy for her, says Manjari. “I didn't realize how time passed. Writing assignments from home and spending a whole lot of time with the family was a beautiful experience.”

However, the later months were hectic for her. “Writing assignments were fun no more. I felt useless, tired and worried for I had learned nothing online. I had written everything but understood nothing. The availability of internet packages reduced and so did my punctuality for online studies. I started feeling frustrated and spending time at home felt fun no more.”

Manjari says that her friends helped her get through these difficult times. “Some helped me feel good by sharing some positive sides of the situation and some helped me recover the studies I missed,” she says. “After I heard the news of schools reopening, I felt so much better. This pandemic taught me ways to cope and manage stress, frustration and about patience.”

Phub Zam, 18, a grade 11 student of Punakha Central School also shares that the pandemic and the lockdown gave her abundant time to complete her pending works.

A teenager in pink tego
Phub Zam

“No sooner did I hear about the lockdown, I was extremely agitated,” she says adding that gradually,  she adjusted to a normal schedule. “I stayed home engaging myself by doing chores, assignments, attending online classes and reading engrossing novels.”

Phub’s spent her lockdown time on online courses and writing articles. “I also prostrated, prayed and tried to practice mindfulness. For me, it gave me hopes and aspirations for a better future and explore many things.”

Today, Phub is as happy to be back to school.  “Now that schools are reopened, I am exhilarated to resume classes with normal study schedules.”

And so is Thinley Choden, 14, a class X student of Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School in Thimphu. “Whatever happens, we must keep on learning,” she says. “It's far better for students to learn in schools with teachers to guide us any time, rather than depending on online classes.”

A young girl infront of flowers
Thinley Choden

Thinley penned this poem on the ongoing pandemic.

Corona?

It's a dreaded disease

We don't see it but it’s right there

Spreading like wildfire.

 

With millions falling prey to it

Underprivileged left defenseless

Everything, every nation closed down

Animals starved to death.

 

Yet, one is lucky to be in Bhutan,

Boundless guidance of His Majesty and

Unprecedented effort of the government

Has been a ray of hope to thousands of citizens

With necessities dropped on porches

 

No individual is left behind, no animals starved

Thus, let's all thank them

By following the protocols and

Staying home

 

Corona virus,

It's a spine-tingling disease

Taking many lives and

Spreading negative vibes.

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Schools across the country closed on March 18 as a preventive measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 infection. On July 1, the government reopened schools for grades X and XII. Following the 21 days of a nationwide lockdown, high schools reopened for in-person classes.