Education in our community primary schools requires much stamina of our students
The sight of dark clouds gathering over the distant hills makes 10-year old Sangay Lhamo frown. For this class two student of Pangna community primary school in the central district of Dagana, the rainy season is not at all a welcome change.
Having to walk at least four hours to and from school five days a week, Sangay saidl that the tiring journey gets worse with the rains. "Besides getting drenched, the steep walking path becomes slippery and infested with leeches," she said.
Pagna CPS is not an isolated case. Having only four schools with full stipend boarding facility in the district, more than 40 percent of the 6,960 students in 23 schools in Dagana walk more than three hours every day from home to school and back.
Five schools have resorted to informal boarding facilities, where the world food program (WFP) provides breakfast and lunch, and the students, who stay in makeshift huts near the school, prepare their own dinner.
"About 80 students aren't availing the informal boarding system and choose to walk to and from home," said Nima, a teacher in Phekoma CPS.
In Lhaling CPS in Kana gewog, students from Lhaling and Chinathang villages walk to school along the Tsirang-Dagana highway.
Surjamati, 8, from Chinathang said she starts her journey at 5 in the morning and reaches school by around 8 am. "I get scared when it gets dark before we reach home," she said, adding that the seniors in school gossiped a lot about people disappearing with the construction of the Dagachu project.
The long walking hours, students say, also hampers their academic performance. "By the time we get home it's dark and we're tired," said Pema Yangdon, 14. Most of these villages do not have electricity.
"Whenever our teachers ask why we didn't do our homework on time, I feel like dropping out of school," said Yeshi, 15. "But my parents insisted I continue."
"Students are also not able to pay attention in class," said a schoolteacher. "Some students doze off in the first period itself."
Students also miss classes more frequently during the rainy season, with rivers swelling and footpaths getting blocked. At times, schools also call off classes when a majority of the students don't make it, said the principal of a remote school.
The dzongkhag education officer (DEO) agreed that the rains did pose a problem for students in the dzongkhag. "We've introduced informal boarding facilities in Lungtengang and Nimtola this year," said the DEO, Sonam Bumthab.
He also said that the dzongkhag had plans to shift the students, who have to walk for hours, to schools where there is boarding facility. "We've discussed the possibilities of introducing a bus system in Dagapela, Trashiding and Balegang gewogs," he said.