Gasa Government School started in 1961 with three teachers (2 english teachers and a dzongkha teacher) and a few motley group students with varying ages. After consecration by the Gasa Lam and rabdey, Gasap* Tsholi, who may be equated to present day Dzongda, made the opening speech and gifted students with a “mah-tam” each (coins-monetary units).
Gasa Government school has since then imparted education to many children from Gasa and it’s gewogs. Some of them never went beyond a few lessons, some a few grades and a very tiny number beyond to persue further studies down to Lekeythang Public School and beyond. The first among the tiny few who went to complete an undergraduate degree is Dawa Tenzin. After having served in the Royal Audit Authority for many years, he is today working as the director in the Election Commission of Bhutan. I remember him because I met him growing up and was always told he was the most educated from Gasa.
Growing up belonging to the smallest community in the country made even smaller by being away where my parents lived as a civil servant, never really occured to me what or how a school educated person was valued back home until quite late into my teens. Today I can understand just why it was so. I would still think that the establishment of the school albeit the small number of enrolled students and students who went onto further do further studies; the alumnus has contributed well and continues to do so. Whether it’s a Councillor in the parliament in Bhutan before 2008 or whether these are the incumbent gups of Khatoe, Khamed or Laya in democratic Bhutan or even current sitting MP in the National Assembly who was the first attorney general or the gynaecologist serving with peers in the JDWNR hospital in Thimphu or one of many harvesting cordyceps for auctions as farmer of a sort. A banker, an aeronautical engineer or the geologist going back to Lunana to mitigate GLOF risks or the chemical engineer who now works in Gelephu as regional director. Or that musician and singer at RAPA or a Zimpoen Wogma serving under the Drukgyalpo or a monk serving His Holiness the Je Khenpo. Even the two teachers (first batch) continuing to impart knowledge to children in schools in Gasa and Chukha. It seems like a long list and it surely would have been in any other place in Bhutan. But for the people of Gasa these names and faces are the easiest to remember because they are the motley few who went to Gasa Government school for education many many years ago. These are from a generation who talk of studying using lamps for lights and remember seeeing trucks and mistaking them for elephants. They continue to play their roles in modern Gasa.
On my last visit there I learnt that the main building of the school continues to be the first original structure. Sitting there among the students while their teacher spoke on “olympics” for their english lesson, with a bucket as a landing for water droplets falling through a leaky roof, I felt grateful for the classroom and teachers, both in the past and now, for as little as we may be who have benefitted from the education system, there still remain plenty who will benefit from here on to change their lives forever as someone said education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
(This is part of a longer write-up to be followed by another write-up)