In the remote hamlet of Merak, east of Trashigang, a few students sit around an open space listening to their teachers attentively. They are engrossed in learning from the materials that the teachers have brought all the way.
However, before the classes begin, parents of the students first welcome the teachers with lunch and tea. Then the students open their books and the teachers start the lessons. Kinga Lhamo, teacher at Tokshingmang Primary School goes towards every student to help them individually. The motley band of teachers and students spend some time at one spot before moving to another targeted place.
Unlike others, students of Tokshingmang Primary School do not have the means or resources to buy mobile phones and television, so the teachers go to their respective homes and deliver the lessons.
A few students who do have mobile phones are taught through online platforms like WeChat, and assignments are also provided. “We have been engaging the students through online classes besides a monthly visit to teach the students coming from Merak, Bongman, and Karma-Goenpa,” she said.
Students of Tokshingmang Primary School come from five different areas of Bongman, Karma-Goenpa, Merak, Kheliphu, and Tokshingmang with 115 students and seven teaching staff.
She said the teachers started the ‘Reaching the Unreached’ initiative to teach students who were deprived of learning during the pandemic.
Since the school is located in a remote area, some students are not able to involve in field visits as well plus online learning and they are usually away from their home looking after cattle. “We hope they are keeping in touch with their studies as we have sent them home with books.”
She said the teachers taking part in the initiative started visiting the students coming from far-flung villages in July but could not continue their tours during August due to the lockdown. “We visit Merak, Karma-Goenpa, and Bongman on day 15, 16, and 17 of every month.”
She said the only difficulty they face is not being able to catch up with all the students as some students are away from home with their yaks and cattle.
Subject teachers take up their own subject and teaching happens in rooms if space is available and if not teaching happens in an open area. Taking turns, they teach all the subjects and normal classes last about 50-60 minutes each. “We plan to make a monthly visit to the three places but we are not sure if we can visit Merak during winter,” she said adding they are not able to visit Kheliphu as it is two days’ walk from Merak.
Another staff Jigme said, students living in and around the Tokshingmang were gathered to attend school turn-wise but after the lockdown, they were not able to continue. However, they are the higher classes have resumed as of now without disturbances. “We are not able to do anything for some students who are engaged in rearing yaks and cattle,” he said and those included students from Kheliphu.
While on a visit, they focus on a particular topic so that they can make it clear and catch up on the lesson; also a few activities are provided. “We take about three to four hours to reach Merak, one hour to Goenpa, and about 30 minutes to Bongman.”
Tenzin Lhamo from Thimphu