Monday, October 22, 2012

We were almost consumed while lighting the Drukyul.

With so much hype and glorification on the teaching profession, the Ministry of Education came out with an ambitious project among others called "The Light Drukyul Project."

It was very short sighted and poorly managed project that only had its sole purpose to fill in the gap created by a shortage of trained teachers in remote schools in our country for a time being.  For that The Ministry of Education galvanized the already disappointed and unemployed graduates to take up the place with glossy promises of better opportunities that brought more waves of shame than pride to the rooms of the Ministry of Education.

With brief orientation program, the HR department of Ministry of Education deployed the aspiring college graduates in different districts where the shortage of teachers was very acute. We were paid a nominal salary of Nu: 10, 000 per month.

With great pride we moved on to serve the nation through our contribution to the respective schools. We moved in with the even bigger hope of better opportunities after completing our two year mandate to serve in the remotest schools of our country.

Patala Primary School under Tsirang District, established in 1969, was the school where my friend taught before he joined along with me as a faculty member of Druk School this year.  
Patala Primary School: On one of the annual functions at the school.

A narrow and often slippery feeder road leads to the courtyard of his previous school. But in the summer he and his colleagues had to hire local horses to carry their luggage. They had to walk for hours uphill from Dovan, a place located along Gelephu- Wangdue Highway.

Walking extra mile with the horses
My friend had a Laptop and a mobile phone but no electricity to charge them. He says the school had solar panels but were to be used only in the evenings.

Like me my friend also sheltered himself in a one room apartment. Though I stayed in a nearby house in an empty room owned by a villager, he was allotted a small room which was previously used as a kitchen by his Principal. It was made of mud and stone prevalent in village construction. He narrates his stay inside that room with deep lament.

Rats and snakes would often invade his room and summer days were nightmares for him. For him the mosquito net served more purposes than it was meant for. He never intended to use it for mosquitoes for they didn’t scare him much. He used it to protect himself from snake bites when he was asleep after a long and tiresome day at school teaching fractions and geometry to the village children.

Rain was plenty there. So, he used to spread a piece of tarpaulin on the mosquito net above his head to collect rain drops that dripped from his old and wreck roof.

 He had also provided one corner of his small room to one of his students whose parents were recently divorced. He provided him with everything and had asked him to work hard at school.

One unfortunate day, just after the school hour was over, dark black clouds started to gather in the sky above the school and strong wind blew. My friend was busy in his staffroom and the student was in his small room changing his uniform when lightening struck him and he suffered burns all over his body.
My friend with Bhanu[At Damphu Hospital.]
My friend was informed by the school cook that Bhanu, the student who lives with him, was no more. He immediately rushed to his room to witness a charred body of his student cum companion which made his eyes drift away for some minutes. He didn’t feel his breath when he placed his fingers under the student's nose. He immediately did the CPR( Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) procedure. The process did work and he immediately rushed him to Damphu Hospital[After a month he fully recovered and he continued his schooling].

He experienced a lot of things during his tenure there that tested his limits… a journey worth remembering.

I had my own share of slippery roads and uphill walk that often questioned me how long were I going to scare the life out of me. I didn’t have a proper place to take a bath. My school taps served as an open bathroom. The chilly wind that blew continuously in that cold place would chill my body more and the pit-toilet and its awful smell always frustrated me. The two hours walk to Yangtse Bazaar to make shopping for a week would numb my whole body.

But whatever it is, we honor our stay in our respective place of posting because the purpose we have served is larger than what the Ministry of Education had ever thought of and what Nu: 10,000 per month is worth of.

We didn’t limit our stay within the school compound and within the four walls of our one roomed apartments. We never demanded more respect from the villagers and the community as a whole. We always stepped down to their level and tried to understand each other and help each other in times of need.
The classroom and the students of Patala Primary School
When we were in the school, we gave our best in helping the children learn the concepts and skills and contribute extra services and took initiatives to boost our school’s growth. And when the school hour gets over, we joined the villagers to discuss the developments and happenings in our country.

In our regular conversations we shared with them the fundamental rights and duties of a Bhutanese citizen. How important it is for them to cast their votes and how much more important it is for them to come to the school and talk and discuss with the teachers regarding their children’s performance.
Sitting down with the villagers.
We not only acted as a bridge for the children to achieve their dreams but we did bring the community closer to the affairs of the schools for the mutual benefit of the community and the school. We did what we could possibly do the best for the children and the communities that received us like royals.

Where the Nation still looks down on the name so infamously coined as ‘contract teachers’ and the Ministry of Education still has the hangover of it. Amidst this, I need to salute my Light Drukyul colleagues who are now working in different fields and serving the Nation in different capacities for being there where your presence was most needed at the time and for being the agent of change for the communities we served.

It’s neither the Ministry of Education nor the Education Minister himself but the aspiring college graduates who dared to move in when the Education Ministry was facing a troubled time are the ones who stole the show off. I salute you FOLKS!

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