“We feel the children’s struggle due to school closure”
Teachers and staff of Kunzangling Central School go the extra mile to ensure the safety and learning of their students.
Trashiyangtse, Bhutan: “Whenever the water supply is disrupted, we have to rush to the water source and clear the blockages. If we don’t support, our children will suffer,” says Sherab, the 53-year-old cook of Kunzangling Central School in the eastern district of Trashiyangtse.
Sherab has worked as a cook with, in his words, four school principals to date and says that their water source often gets clogged during this time of the year. “Sometimes, it takes us a whole day to clear the blockage.”
Caretaker, Dorji Tshering, accompanies Sherab to the water source whenever the school’s water supply gets cut. At this time of the year, the two are at the source two to three times a week. “We have to visit the source even at night sometimes. If there is no water, our children will suffer.”
As schools across the country step up to the government’s instruction to ensure adequate handwashing facilities and prepare for a reopening, support staff like Sherab and Dorji are ready to help the school ensure hand hygiene for its students.
The water source is about seven kilometers away, an hour’s drive over rough road from the school and takes about three hours on foot. Often, at this time of the year when the road gets blocked, the two staff walk to the source.
Last week, school principal Namgay Wangchuk joined the Sherab and Dorji to the water source. “I wanted to see for myself how they struggle to ensure regular water supply for all us in the school,” he says. “Water shortage is becoming a daily routine these days and the two are always ready to rush and fix the problem.”
The principal observed that their water source area, where wild boars and bears roam does become risky during summer with landslides. “They are familiar with the area and hasn’t encountered any problems to date but it is not an easy job to fix the problem at the source.”
Located about 45kms from the district headquarters, the school is much closer to the popular Gom Kora temple in Tongzhang gewog. It has 20 teachers for 291 students and the school reopened for its 90 class X students on July 1.
With its water supply secured, the school as part of its preparation installed an additional 12 tap points to its exiting 20 in the dining hall.
“We were busy since the school closed in March due to COVID-19 scare,” Namgay Wangchuk says. “We initiated a programme to conduct door to door lessons for all our students.”
Until July 1, these visits also clubbed with the distribution of Self-Instructional Materials were done to ensure that children who faced difficulty with e- learning did not miss out on their education. Some teachers, he says, had to drive over 60kms of rough road or walk for three hours to reach the homes of children in remote villages.
“The parents were very happy and appreciative of teachers visiting their homes to teach the children,” he says.
During their visits over four weeks, the teachers saw the challenges their students faced in learning from online platforms.
“We feel the children’s struggle due to school closure,” he says. “We came across some students who were helping their parents in the field or at the construction sites.”
Whenever they came across their students, one of the first and common questions the students asked their teachers is, ‘when is our school reopening?’
Besides the students, teachers, he says, are as prepared for the school’s reopening. “Our teachers also find e-teaching challenging. There is no contact teaching and the response to online lessons is often poor.”
The school has stepped up surveillance on COVID-19 measures and maintain a logbook at the gate along with a Druk Trace code for visitors to scan. “We are ready to reopen our school even though maintaining physical distance may become a challenge,” the principal says. “But we are doing all we can to ensure the safety and learning of our children.”