Par­ents and teach­ers pro­vide mid­day meal to Pakchina ECR stu­dents

The first ini­tia­tive of its kind in the coun­try

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Kr­ishna Ghal­ley from Phuentshol­ing

Its 12 noon. Thick fog sur­rounds the Pakchina Ex­tended Class­room (ECR), a re­mote school in Sam­pheling gewog, Ch­hukha.

Stu­dents in­side the two-roomed school echo their teach­ers as he re­cites lessons for the day.

A strong wind from the south crack­les the school walls and roof made of CGI sheets.

The kids wear ea­ger looks wait­ing for the bell to ring, which means they will now get a warm, much-awaited meal.

Sure enough, the lunch bell rings

and the teach­ers quit the class­room. Stu­dents start run­ning to the store­room where they iden­tify the plates and stands in queue for lunch.

Un­like other ECRs and day-schools, Pakchina ECR ini­ti­ated a mid­day meal pro­gram since Fe­bru­ary where par­ents pre­pare the food.

The par­ents of 36 stu­dents con­trib­ute Nu 500 a month for the lunch. The par­ents take turns to cook daily. The teacher In­charge, Nima Drukpa, is the mas­ter­mind be­hind the ini­tia­tive.

“The re­sponse was ap­plause wor­thy,” he says with a grin. He cred­its the par­ents for com­ing for­ward af­ter the idea was first pro­posed.

Ac­cord­ing to him, most of the stu­dents walk for hours on end to reach the school car­ry­ing lunch pack along with books and it is a mammoth task for the ten­der kids.

With the par­ents’ con­tri­bu­tion, the gro­ceries last for more than three months at a time, ac­cord­ing to Pethshel­nang Chi­wog Tshogpa, Karna Bdr Rai.

Af­ter shop­ping for the ba­sics, the stu­dents get to en­joy meat and eggs ev­ery week with the cash left over. Par­ents also take turn to fetch fire­wood for cook­ing. “Ev­ery­thing is sched­uled and we have not faced any prob­lems so far. The par­ents are co­op­er­a­tive,” Karna Bdr Rai says.

As most of the ru­ral Pakchina and Dhungeyna vil­lagers live in poverty, the ini­tia­tive has proven a suc­cess so far. Most of the par­ents are poor and re­sort to work­ing in a nearby mine.

“The par­ents can’t af­ford to pro­vide spe­cial meals like we pro­vide here. Also they do not get time to pre­pare lunch for the kids as they leave in a hurry to work,” Nima Drukpa says.

The ini­tia­tive has also pro­moted healthy com­pe­ti­tion among the par­ents to pro­vide spe­cial meals for their chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to the Teacher In­charge. The par­ents re­sort to pro­vid­ing fresh veg­eta­bles from the lo­cal gar­dens. This in turn has sparked an in­ter­est to grow veg­eta­bles among the lo­cals. “We try our best to pro­vide or­ganic veg­eta­bles pro­cured from the lo­cals ex­cept salt, oil and rice. Now, al­most ev­ery­one keeps a kitchen gar­den,” Nima Drukpa says.

Stu­dents of Zhush­ingdingkha, who walk two hours to Pakchina ECR are happy.

Pem Dem, a class III student takes her lunch along with her friends. “We are happy as we don’t have to carry pack lunch from home now,” she says with a shy smile. Pem Dem, girls’ cap­tain guides her friends to clean the plates af­ter meal.

The meal be­gins with a short prayer taught by the teach­ers. “Th­ese stu­dents can re­cite prayers and won’t face dif­fi­culty un­like other day schol­ars if trans­ferred to board­ing schools,” a teacher says.

A 32-year-old fa­ther, Nidup, is of full of praise for the ini­tia­tive from both the par­ents and the teach­ers. “We are happy with the sys­tem. Now we don’t have to work ex­tra for our chil­dren to cook pack lunch,” says Nidup.

Chukha Dzongkhag’s Chief Dzongkhag Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer, Kin­ley Gyelt­shen said that the ECR’s ini­tia­tive is a lead­ing ex­am­ple for other schools to fol­low. “The ini­tia­tive is an ex­am­ple of a good part­ner­ship be­tween the par­ents and the teach­ers.”

He added that ECR, be­ing a tem­po­rary mea­sure, no meals are pro­vided by the gov­ern­ment but the par­ents are very forth­com­ing to pre­pare the meal while teach­ers too join the meal by con­tribut­ing Nu 1,000 a month. “Since par­ents and teach­ers are in­volved, the qual­ity of food is en­sured,” he says.

The Teacher In­charge plans to con­struct a bet­ter kitchen and din­ing room for the stu­dents. Cur­rently, the stu­dents use the class­rooms as din­ing room.

Pakchina ECR is more than 30 km from Phuentshol­ing to­ward Pasakha-Man­i­tar by­pass road un­der Sam­pheling gewog. The ECR has three teach­ers in­clud­ing Teacher In­charge.

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