Bhutanese school principals witness increasing dropout cases

A school principal in Tsirang was shocked when he called one of his Class X students to enquire why she decided not to return to school when it reopened on July 1

Jul 25, 2020
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A school principal in Tsirang was shocked when he called one of his Class X students to enquire why she decided not to return to school when it reopened on July 1.

The principal learnt that his student got married and decided not to continue education.

Nine students studying in Classes X and XII from his school did not return to school. The principal, requesting anonymity, said that five were female students.

“These students have lost interest to continue education and decided to drop out while a few decided to work at construction sites or take up other jobs,” a principal said. “However, a few of them could not join on medical grounds for now,” said the principal.

This is, however, just one school in Tsirang.

At least two students have not returned to school and many are Class X students, according to principals that Kuensel talked with.

Some of the principals said that this was a huge concern, as some of the students simply did not want to return because they were no more interested in studying because of the school closure.

Many teachers and principals shared that this was a worrying trend, and this was due to the month-long school closure. Schools were first closed on March 6 in four dzongkhags and then across the country on March 18. Students are not confident about returning to school, so they choose to continue their education next year.

A principal in Mongar said this was happening because not everyone had successful access to online learning.

“The students are worried they may not be able to perform or write assignments on which they would be assessed or have to appear exam,” a principal said. “Some of the students, even after asking them to return, decided to discontinue and stay at home helping parents in the field.”

Although some of the students cited medical reasons, teachers shared a very few cases might be genuine, but many could be an excuse not to return to school.

“We advised them to come, but they refused. We were helpless when the parents themselves did not want to send them,” a principal in Chukha said.

If it was to become a monk or nun for some students in the east, it was marriage or to help parents in the south while many students took an opportunity to work at construction sites or other available jobs to earn in the west and north.

Many students left schools to join armed forces where vacancies were floated last month, according to a principal. A teacher said the students find working easier than studying.

“One of my students was employed at a furniture house in Thimphu and another joined the army,” a principal in Dagana said. “Five students wanted to continue next year as they couldn’t continue studies online during the school closure.”

In some schools in Trashigang, principals shared that the parents called to inform they would not be sending their children to school.

Many principals also shared that they have asked students to return any time to join school if they change their mind or do not get a job.

“The initiatives like build Bhutan project or job vacancy announcement at the construction site, or the dry ports came at a time when these students were at home,” a teacher in Wangdue shared. “So, this allowed them to earn money for the family.”

However, Kuensel could not contact the department of school and education under education ministry for accurate number of students’ dropout and the intervention on the issue.

With the government not decided over re-opening school for the rest of the classes, teachers and principals shared that while they understand the pandemic situation, it was worrying if the school closure continue for long.

“Such cases may increase, as students are losing interest. If this can happen with students of Classes X and XII, it is bound to happen with lower-class students who are immature,” a teacher said.

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