Teachers return to school

To construct handwashing stations for the students and prepare the school for its reopening

UNICEF Bhutan
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Punakha/DEO/2020
03 July 2020

Khuruthang, Punakha:  While schools across the country remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic scare, teachers in Punakha have been going to school for the past few weeks. 

All 439 teachers here are preparing their schools to welcome the students. Classrooms are given a fresh coat of paint, books arranged, footpaths levelled, flower gardens tended to and  -  they have all taken up the work of constructing handwashing stations, a condition set by the government to reopen the schools.

After receiving the budget to construct the handwashing stations, the Dzongkhag Education Officer (DEO), Lemo, moved a note sheet, to allow teachers to construct the stations in their respective schools and not to contract the work out.

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UNICEF/Bhutan/SPelden/2020
Punakha DEO Lemo

Why?

“My teachers are missing their students and missing work,” says Lemo. “This idea is to keep them engaged. Everyone is concerned about the wellbeing of the vulnerable groups but our teachers are also affected by the situation.”

Another reason, she says, is that teachers would learn skills that they would share with the students. “They will learn some technical skills,” she says.

The third reason, says Lemo, is to save time. Tendering the work is time consuming and the quality of work often becomes an issue. “In this case, our teachers started work three days after receiving the budget.”

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Punakha/DEO/2020
Teachers carry raw materials to construct the handwashing stations in their school.

After her proposal was approved, the DEO says, the education sector worked with the district engineer and customized the design of handwashing stations received from the ministry to the height of children in the schools.

“We followed all the required process, the BOQ and the drawings and wrote down each and every step including the ratio of materials to be used by the schools for the construction,” she said. The schools were also briefed on the protocols that needed to be strictly followed in the construction.

Punakha is home to 25 schools, 439 teachers and 121supporting staff. The response from the teachers, says Lemo, has been overwhelming. “The teachers are engaged, learning and sharing us the progress in our group chat on Telegram.”

UNICEF Representative Dr Will Parks said, “The leadership shown by Lemo and the commitment of Punakha’s teachers are both exemplary. Getting schools ready to re-open with all the necessary safety protocols in place is a vital step towards returning Bhutan’s children to a much-needed sense of normalcy, including the familiarity of classroom learning, the fun of interacting with school friends, and the importance of access to school-based nutrition.”

When the schools reopen, a total of 7,399 students will benefit from the handwashing stations that their teachers and administration staff are constructing for their safety.

“The work may not be perfect but it is something the schools worked hard on and would take ownership of,” the DEO says. “And this is one of the many ways they are preparing to welcome our students back to school.”

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Punakha/DEO/2020
Teachers help pave a footpath for the students
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Punakha/DEO/2020
A teacher gives a wall in the school a fresh coat of paint.