The schools in Phuentsholing finally reopened for this academic year with various Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and measures put in place. And this comes after a year-long closure following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upon the confirmation from the Ministry of Education (MoE), the students of Classes IX to XII of Phuentsholing who were relocated to Wangduephodrang, Punakha, and Samtse last year due to the pandemic have returned to their respective schools in Phuentsholing.
Around 500 students and teachers came home earlier this week after appearing for the board examinations. These were the second group of students of Classes X and XII who appeared in the board examination of 2020.
Meanwhile, the teachers who were on the Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA) duty will be reaching Phuentsholing after the evaluation of the exam papers.
Talking to Business Bhutan about the safe return of the students to their schools, the officiating principal of Phuentsholing Higher Secondary School, Meena Devi Gurung, said that the school has developed an SOP and guidelines to ensure the safe return of the students in the school, adhering strictly to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health (MoH).
“Wearing of facemasks is made compulsory for everyone in the school, frequent hand washing and strict surveillance during the recess and lunch breaks are monitored to ensure safety and avoid crowding,” she said, adding that even De-Suups have been deployed at the entrance.
She added that the teachers are always arranging and monitoring the movement of students in the classrooms.
“We check all the students before letting them off from the school so that all of them are safe,” said the officiating principal.
She added that in case of an emergency case, they have prepared enough to inform the concerned health officials, identified an isolation space, disinfect the area, begin contract tracing and contain the class or the campus.
“We also have escort teachers or students at the exit and entrance for our younger students, especially those who study in lower primary,” she said.
According to the vice principal of Phuentsholing Middle Secondary School, Ganga Chhetri, managing social distancing is an issue for a class that has some 30 to 39 students.
“Everyone in the school is trying their best to keep the students engaged in the classrooms and maintain safety protocols at all times,” he added.
“For hand washing, we have placed additional hand-washing stations in the campus. We even had to suspend the Health and Physical Education (HPE) activity as it an out-door activity and there are chances of our students getting complacent,” said the vice principal.
He added that the students and teachers are restricted to go out of the school campus once they are inside. Even the visitors and parents are being monitored by the teachers and De-Ssups at the entry gate.
“In each block, handwashing stations are placed to avoid overcrowding,” he added.
The officiating principal of Phuentsholing Lower Secondary School, Raj Kumar Chhetri, said that the sections have been extended to ensure each class has minimal students.
He said that the school has come up with an SOP that can be applied practically in the field with optimal focus on the safety of the students.
“We have been sending students in section-wise after the classes get over through two exit gates which, by now, even the parents are aware of the timing,” he said.
According to the Thromde Education Officer, Norbu Gyeltshen, the Thromde has placed additional water-taps in the school to ensure proper handwashing and Thromde has also carried out school maintenance works to make sure that the students, teachers and parents are out of risks. “Ultimately, it is our shared responsibility to create a conducive and safe place for our children to learn,” said Norbu Gyeltshen.
Sonam Tashi from Phuentsholing