Thursday, August 13, 2020

The World After High School

Around thirteen years ago, a bunch of young lads crossed this bridge to test the waters and explore the world of teaching. It was a completely different world there altogether. The location had everything to sustain life although things like power, roads, cellular phone network, and LPG werent anywhere within its reach. But, such inadequacies and deficiencies only made us more resilient and ready to weather the storms. That was why the teacher apprentice programme of such nature was devised in the first place. For me, it wasnt any different than spending months in the thicket, left to fend for myself and try my butterfingers in the given trade. Despite my initial hesitation and misgivings, Id gone headlong and came out not just alive but prepared to undergo a similar hardship again.

Burichhu Suspension Bridge

Fast forward thirteen odd years, I can still maintain that those were the best days of my life. I wouldnt be who Im today if not for that adventure-laden, heuristic teacher apprentice programme. It not only helped bridge a young, innocuous high school graduates journey with that of a curious, over-zealous teacher apprentices, but also helped bridge the fledgeling teacher apprentices journey with that of a tried-and-trusted regular schoolteachers. And besides all that, the sight of this bridge still gives me gooseflesh all over every time I pass by today.


Postscript: Teacher apprenticeship was a requirement that every teacher-select candidate had to undergo before they were taken to the teacher training college. After a fortnight-long induction, they were placed in every nook and cranny across the country for about eight months. After its completion, they underwent B.Ed, a three-year course. Just to clarify, it’s not a prac; they’d their prac in the second year. The teacher apprentice practice is discontinued from 2009.

Some more photos I later discovered on Facebook. I can’t attach any credits since I’d downloaded them from various threads with no intention of using them later. 

Phuensumgang Community Primary School, Lajab Gewog, Dagana.

The couple under the umbrella was the Basic Health Worker and his better-half.

And a lot of familiar faces replete with carefree smiles. 

Looks like the former education minister Thakur Singh Powdyel had visited the school. 

If you could see the little huts behind the traditional tents, that’s where the students stayed. The school had no boarding facility then. So their parents built such makeshift huts to house them since the nearest settlement was about an hour far from the school. Worse, the bear-boar-infested paths between their homes and school left them with no better alternative. 

Oh, the school now has a uniform too! Back in 2007, the children could wear any Gho and Kira, and most of them were either barefooted or gum-booted. But my goodness, they really worked hard! Our Principal used to send us to monitor them in their huts and I’d almost always found them studying, something I don’t see today, particularly in the urban schools. And oh, they always had kerosene lamps to ensure that they studied beyond the sundown. 

In one of the huts, two little sisters stayed all by themselves. One was in grade 1 and other in pre-primary. The elder sister did all the cooking and washing by herself. And better yet, she did exceptionally well in academics too. 

On hindsight, these children were the best lessons of my life. They made the best use of what little was within their reach and they thrived; I still keep hearing stories about their successes and they make me a bit teary-eyed but more than anything else, ultra-proud. 

The usherette in this photo was the Principal (Palden Dorji) then. 

This whole place was usually shrouded in thick blankets of fog most of the year. While it missed every bit of the modern amenities, it’d plenty of leeches and sandflies as if that did any good for all its inadequacies. God has the best humour, you must know!

This is how the locals there commuted from the nearest road-point then. It was roughly a six-hour walk uphill. They always had to walk in groups for safety since the thickets were home to mountain bears and wild boars. I’m told that they’ve roads today. 

Summer was terrible there. The school was literally cut off from the rest of the world with these tiny streams becoming irksome monsters. 

However, this photo reminds me of my first walk to that school. Were five of us and sixteen little boys had come all the way to help us with our luggage. We reached the school at 9 pm, totally exhausted and famished, and fully drenched in perspiration, but inexplicably satisfied having conquered the first of the many obstacles. 

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