In class nine there is a narrative essay with this title and although it is set in the Civil War period and recounts the African-American narrators’ personal experience, it strikes a chord with Bhutanese readers. Many texts in the curriculum do not appear to have relevance to young readers in this kingdom but this one is a noteworthy exception and for that reason I have enjoyed teaching it. Given my own discussions with students on this particular topic, I can easily see why they grasp the concepts and make the connection with their own life experiences.
Below is just one of many student-written sagas I have been privileged to read and less enthralled with correcting, as a response to studying this essay. Although the English may not be perfect, for it to reach this point, considerable effort has gone into self correction and some teacher input is evident. I think it throws some light onto the plight and resilience of many children in this country, and for that reason thought that it was worth sharing.
It is published below with full consent of the author: Karma from Class IXB Samtengang Middle Secondary School. Please feel free to comment and share your reactions.
I can recollect when I was seven years old that my brothers were going to school but at that time I didn’t know the value of an education. When I was nine years old all my elder brothers dropped out of school and forcefully my father and mother sent me to the school. It was so difficult for them to send all of us to school, as there are seven siblings in my family. Some of them had even left home.
In the year 2004 I was in Class PP (pre-primary) in the Kazhi Community Primary School. My brother, sister and I were the only children who didn’t have adult guidance and many children were always trying to bully us. Whenever some naughty things had been done at school, after school was over the teacher and children’s parents blamed us because we were the only children who didn’t have adult guidance. My sister burst into tears more than three times a day because she couldn’t bear the pain.
I believe that life is like a dream because till I was in grade five, I was an infant in mind and confused about which way I should take. Time had just blown like the wind where I felt as if nothing went into my brain. It was blank. At that time I failed in class five. As a result I received many scoldings from my family. They all felt sad and blamed me. I thought of giving up my studies but they didn’t want me to be a farmer. At the beginning of the year 2009 I repeated 5th standard in Samtengang Primary School. There the teachers and students were co-operative and I felt happy.
When I was in class six, my sister and brother had graduated from primary school and went to middle school and I was all alone in primary school. I didn’t have a proper house to live in as I changed accommodation often. Most of the time I lived with different types of people. They all treated me well at first but after some time they tried to treat me as their servant and I always went against them. Lastly I lived with my friend Sonam Dorji (Batu). We were best friends and from the same village. I felt comfortable with him. At that time we were also the only children who didn’t have adult guidance but we were big enough to fight back if people unjustly blamed us for wrongdoing.
To be frank, we never used to clean our house properly: it was like a sty. Our parents never used to visit us and we had to go to our village on weekends. We had to carry our vegetables and rice from our village because we had no relatives living nearby. Most of our time was spent playing, chatting and shouting at each other. As the time passed by and the exams came, my mind was full of tension, as I had made a great mistake earlier. I studied so seriously but I studied at the last minute. It was so difficult for me to cover al the subjects. However I did my exams very successfully and the result was successful. While thinking of my past mistake I really regret it.