Darla’s Non-Formal Education which started out with 15 women learners has increased to 37 within seven months compelling Darla Middle Secondary School management to provide an additional instructor and classroom for teaching.
Initially, the center was proposed to be established at Bhutan Board Products Limited’s (BBPL) compound for the spouses of the staff to promote literacy but the school volunteered to provide a classroom allowing the learners from BBPL to learn.
Darla Middle Secondary School’s principal Tshering said that now not only the spouses of the BBPL staff but women from the villages attended classes regularly.
The principal said that having a good instructor motivated more learners to join. “Also, we conducted advocacy programs encouraging them to learn and promote literacy,” said Tshering.
Since Darla gewog has the highest population in the dzongkhag, the response from the community on NFE was very forthcoming.
Now, two instructors teach the learners from 5:30 pm. One of the instructors, Nakum said that the number of learners increase by two or three every month. “They are really interested. They learn fast. It’s a progress that our learners increase monthly,” she said.
Apart from daily lessons, the learners also interact among themselves. They take turns to bring refreshments to the classroom which they share after classes. Nakum expects more learners in the upcoming months. “There are many others interested whom I heard are going to join,” she said.
The learners are taught Basic Learning Course (BLC) which later will be upgraded to Post Literacy Course (PLC) according to syllabus. Courses duration lasts for two and half years including BLC and PLC. While BLC is a year-long course, PLC is completed within 18 months.
San Maya Tamang, 62, is the oldest learner from the class. So far she has learnt basic Dzongkha literature. Now she can read, write and speak Dzongkha. Also she has learnt Driglam Namzha, the Bhutanese etiquette. She was earlier enrolled in NFE center in Gelephu but could not continue due to her deteriorating health. “I learnt that they teach here too and started attending,” she said. Now she can recite prayers at home and can dial numbers on her phone. “It’s a good initiative. People who didn’t have privilege to attend formal school have a wonderful opportunity to learn and apply the knowledge gained in our daily lives. Literacy has become necessary,” she said.
Nar Maya Mongar, 26, is another student from Bich Darla. Within five months, she has also learnt basic Dzongkha literature. Now she can read sign boards and use phones. “I have gained confidence to move out as I can read signboards and talk Dzongkha,” she said. Earlier, being illiterate she feared to go on long journeys alone.
The learners enjoy pot luck dinners when they bring and share packed meals.
Chukha Dzongkhag’s Deputy Chief Education Officer Chhimi Tshewang said that the turnover has impressed the department. Citing the need to learn basic education, he said that the trend set up by the public of Darla can be an example. He said that unlike other centers, the number of learners have doubled within six months. Chhimi Tshewang said that with modernization, people require basic education to keep pace. “They learn to interact socially in the community, social etiquette and management skills,” he said. Apart from learning literature, they take part in co-curricular activities to keep themselves fit. The learning will also help them support their children with home work at home.
The dzongkhag will provide other necessary support required in the center. Non-Formal Education (NFE) was initiated by the National Women Association (NWAB) in 1980. From 1992 to l993, NFE program was coordinated by the Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC). Considering the appropriateness of its place in the Education Division, the responsibility of implementing the program became the sole responsibility of the Education Division from 1994.
Krishna Ghalley from Darla, Chhukha