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Students from Remote Villages Brave Perilous Journeys to Reach School

โ€ฆ๐’€๐’๐’–๐’๐’ˆ ๐’๐’†๐’‚๐’“๐’๐’†๐’“๐’” ๐’Š๐’ ๐’“๐’†๐’Ž๐’๐’•๐’† ๐‘ป๐’“๐’‚๐’”๐’‰๐’Š๐’ˆ๐’‚๐’๐’ˆ ๐’—๐’Š๐’๐’๐’‚๐’ˆ๐’†๐’” ๐’‡๐’‚๐’„๐’† ๐’˜๐’Š๐’๐’…๐’๐’Š๐’‡๐’† ๐’•๐’‰๐’“๐’†๐’‚๐’•๐’” ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’„๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’๐’†๐’๐’ˆ๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’„๐’๐’Ž๐’Ž๐’–๐’•๐’†๐’”, ๐’‘๐’“๐’๐’Ž๐’‘๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‚๐’‘๐’‘๐’†๐’‚๐’๐’” ๐’‡๐’๐’“ ๐’ƒ๐’๐’‚๐’“๐’…๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‡๐’‚๐’„๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’†๐’” ๐’๐’“ ๐’Š๐’Ž๐’‘๐’“๐’๐’—๐’†๐’… ๐’•๐’“๐’‚๐’๐’”๐’‘๐’๐’“๐’•๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’๐’‘๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’๐’”

Phurpa Wangmo

Students residing in the villages of Dhonphangmag, Mongnangkhola, Gomchu, and Drewoong, located in the remote part of Khaling Gewog in Trashigang, face tiring journeys to attend Khaling Lower Secondary School (KLSS). These young learners are compelled to endure minimum travel times of up to 2 hours each day to reach their school.

The distances these students traverse are considerable, Dhongphangmag covering 9 Kilometer (km) distance, while Mongnangkhola and Gomchu students navigate 7 km each, and Drewoong students cover 5 kilometers. Their daily journeys expose them to challenges such as wildlife threats and the risk of flash floods, particularly during the rainy season.

The Gup of Khaling Gewog has highlighted the lack of feasible alternatives, making boarding facilities a necessary consideration for students. Should bus services be pursued, four buses would be required, which poses its own set of inconveniences.

“Considering the circumstances, providing boarding options emerges as a compelling solution,” emphasised the Gup. “In the past, prior to my tenure as Gup, there were indications of potential boarding facilities, but no discussions transpired. Currently, we are planning to actively deliberate on this matter with the Gewog Tshogdoe and Dzongkhag Tshogdue, proposing the establishment of a hostel within the school premises.”

Parents in these villages face significant challenges in escorting their children to school. The demands of agricultural work and animal husbandry leave them with limited time to accompany their children. “The children in these villages are vulnerable to wildlife threats and the hazards of flash floods,” the Gup added.

Mongnangkhola Tshogpa expressed that, particularly during the rainy season, children face increased risks due to the potential for flash floods and encounters with wild animals. Moreover, as they need to walk for more than 1-2 hours, their uniforms get thoroughly soaked in the rainwater. This issue is particularly concerning for younger children, who might struggle to manage their uniform properly. The impacts of these challenges on their ability to concentrate in classes remain uncertain.

Tshering, a 74-year-old resident of Mongnangkhola, shared insights into his grandchildren’s daily routine. They start their journey to school at the early hour of 5:30 AM, requiring them to rise before dawn. Their return from school is around 6:30 PM. This rigorous schedule poses challenges for his grandchildren’s self-study efforts at home, given their exhaustion from nearly four hours of daily travel.

Tshering further said, “Sometimes we receive complaints from teachers about our children failing to complete their homework. However, due to the exhaustion and fatigue they experience from their commute, their options are limited. Nonetheless, they engage themselves in self-study over the weekends.”

The concern for their children’s safety persists until they return home from school, particularly during the early evening and winter seasons. With darkness descending early, there is an increased risk of students encountering wild animals.
One of the parents said, “I’ve noticed that other schools have buses stationed unused on their premises due to their hostel facilities. We would deeply appreciate it if the government could consider our situation and extend assistance to our school, providing drop-off and pick-up services at least during the morning and evening using these two buses.”

Principal Cheki Gyeltshen of Khaling Lower Secondary School (KLSS) said that the school is actively addressing these concerns. Despite travel-related challenges, students continue to excel academically, and major issues during their daily commutes are rare. In cases of heavy rain, the school coordinates transportation to ensure students reach their destinations safely.

Addressing the homework load, Principal Cheki Gyeltshen explained, “We encourage students to complete their homework during school hours, utilizing their free time effectively. Recognizing the long distances they travel home, we refrain from burdening them with heavy books, as carrying such loads over great distances can be highly taxing.”
โ€œAdditionally, the school maintains collaborations with nearby institutions such as Jigme Sherubling Central School and Muenselling Institute, which provide resources, including transportation support,โ€ added the Principal.

Out of the total 304 students enrolled in the school, 26 students commute from distant locations including

Mongnangkhola, Gomchu, Dhonphangmag, and Drewoong. Additionally, 40 students come from other far-flung areas.
Jigme, a teacher at Khaling LSS, mentioned that, specifically for the 60 students who travel from remote regions, they have appointed captains from those areas. This measure ensures a seamless and timely journey for the students, minimizing any potential disruptions.

Parents have continually raised the issue during parent-teacher meetings and interactions with visiting Members of Parliament. They aspire to receive government support to introduce transportation services, similar to schools with boarding facilities. However, despite these appeals, tangible outcomes remain elusive.

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