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Happy to be in school 2003
Never too late to be in school 2003
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Happy to be in school

December 2003

Sitting at the edge of the school assembly ground, Gyeltshen watches his friends, students of Babesa community school in Thimphu, perform a traditional song and dance as they celebrate the 96th National Day.

Schoolmates give Gyeltshen (centre) a helping hand

He feels an urge to join them, but Gyeltshen has difficulty balancing his body -he needs help to climb steps and cross over drains. Few weeks after he was born Gyeltshen was struck by a disease that left him partially paralyzed.

The 15-year old has just got the year-end class results. He has been promoted to class I after studying for two years in the PP (pre-primary) level. "I want to become a head master," Gyeltshen says as he shoves his marksheet in his hemchu (gho pocket).


Never too late to be in school

Gyeltshen is the oldest student in his class but he has the determination and the will power to that inspires says the school's headmaster, Lhagey Tshering. "He was always in the school premises even before he was admitted. He would peep through the classroom windows and leave only in the evening."

According to his father, Wangchuk, Gyeltshen would disappear after breakfast from home almost everyday. "We would always find him in the school." His parents and relatives of course were not keen on sending him to school given his inability to use his hands. But seeing that he was keen, the school took him in two years ago. So Gyeltshen joined school when he was 13. Since he cannot write, Gyeltshen sits for a separate class examination. He is also exempted from paying tuition fees or buying school books.

Gyeltshen's mother, Tshering Lhum, still feels that he should stay home. She worries that he might create problems in school or injure himself on the way to school. Gyeltshen enjoys school. "All my friends are in school and the teachers are good to me," he said. According to Gyeltshen his friends, both boys and girls are always ready to share a candy or help him climb the stairs and cross the doorstep. Nobody in school pokes fun of his deficiency.

As a student, Gyeltshen is a bright and a cooperative student says his class teacher, Tshering Dhendup. "Although he is much older than the other students he gets along easily with his younger classmates. Sometimes he even acts as the class captain and controls the class."

Teachers and friends also like him for his humor and his courteous nature. "He is very particular and always ready with greetings," says teacher Aita Raj.

The school is closing for winter vacation and Gyeltshen is not happy. "I will miss my friends," he says.

Next year Gyeltshen's friends might miss him too. Headmaster Lhagey Tshering plans to admit him in the Dragtsho Vocational Institute for the Disabled in Thimphu. "As he grows up and moves into higher classes he may not be happy when he realises that he is different from the others," says Lhagey Tshering.

For now Gyeltshen is content being a school student.

Source: Contributed by Ugyen Penjor, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2003
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