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Note of Reflection for the year 2012

Dear Sirs and Madams,

Today, the 18th of December, 2012, the academic year of 2012 has come to an end. As we come to the end of the year 2012, perhaps, it is time to look back and try to unfold the picture of the year.

On Friday, 10th of February, 2012, the school started as usual with teachers and staff talking about their vacation, number of workshop they attended etc. We welcomed the new academy year distributing jobs and responsibilities, subjects, classes, framing timetable, reshuffling of children into different houses etc.

Then announced the result of the Class XII and X. Of the 5 candidates in Class XII, 1 received scholarship to undergo Legal Laws in Bachelors degree, (LLB.), 2 were qualified for Sherubtse, while 1 entered teachers training college and the 5th one is still trying to find a job. Of the four candidates in Class X, 3 were qualified for class XI and the third candidate had to repeat.

This year was a test to many of us, particularly to those of us who were teaching computer to the children. The project ended successfully, yet leaving all the responsibilities to the Bhutanese counterparts. As we tested the newly completed syllabus and handbook, we realized that, no matter, how hard we work, it would not be perfect with the rapid ICT technological changes. With the Office 2010 and JAWS 14 launched in October, made us realized that we would continuously need to work on the materials.

Saturday, 10th of March, is a date to be remembered in the history of NIVI. The old hostels built in 1950s that began the education in Khaling, followed by the old kitchen, So called beam room where thousands and thousands of metres of cloths might have woven by the visually impaired children back in 1973 to 1991 The dining-hall constructed in early 80s were completely dismantled. The buildings that might have taken long time to come into a proper shape, where the visually impaired who are today gainfully employed, grew up and might have spent a huge amount of money in building. Within 1 hour from 11 to 12, it was completely demolished leaving no picture of their existence. The space has been created for the proposed huge academic building which should have started very soon but did not as there was problem with the contractor.

13th of March was a lucky day for NIVI. Dasho Latu Jamba, MP of Wamrong constituency visited the institute with the gup of Khaling Gewog and granted a set of microphones and sound system worth of sixty thousand Ngultrums. This was a great blessing for the children. The children would have the opportunity to use microphone appropriately and enable to showcase their talent in music and singing.

We also received other donations. A set of uniform for all the children of the institute, Sherig Century T-shirt and Cap from Mr. Duptho of Shangrila Tours and Trekking.

25th of March is yet another day worth noting in the history of NIVI. Dorji of class VI who competed with 20 singers of 20 Dzongkhag stood first obtaining the title “Little Star” of 2012. The other two friends obtained 9th and 7th position.

We also had quite a number of visitors worth mentioning in the note of reflection. Besides the regular visit of tourists, some of the visitors worth mentioning are the old teacher of NIVI. Mrs. Gro-Holm Rypestol and her three Daughters, followed by the visit of Mr. and Mrs. Kippenes the founding parents of this institute. The institute was also blessed by the visit of Chief of ECCD and SEN division accompanied by an official from Perkins.

Based on the evaluation of 2011, the need of adapting changes in the system was felt so strong and in one of the staff meeting unanimously decided to make few changes to provide better education for the children. The house decided to adopt weekly examination system so as to enable children to be kept busy and occupied during the weekends and to ensure that the children use the time appropriately and meaningfully. The house also decided to make a slight change of evening studies for the holidays. Language policy was yet another milestone laid down in the year 2012.

2012 brought a lot of changes in the faculty of the institute. Three staff members were trained in Dzongkha Unicode, one teacher received study on Inclusive education in Australia, another teacher received training in designing and developing web site for the blind sponsored by Bhutan Lions Club and an opportunity to attend the WBUICEVI (World Blind Union & International Council on Education for the Visually Impaired) conducted in Bangkok Thailand. NIVI also received the opportunity to participate in developing Dzongkha Braille Primer conducted in Gaylephu in December.

There were few other changes as well. While a teacher had left for studies in Australia, another teacher who had left for studies in 2011 returned and joined the institute. In addition, three of our staff received grade promotion. Mr. Tashi Phuntsho who had worked as a teacher for more than 38 years with 25 years of his service in the institute retired on 31st of October, 2012. As we all know, Dr. Sengye Namgyel, the director of Sherubtse College, Kanglung and Mr. Tashi Phuntsho had developed Dzongkha Braille Script, opening a new educational opportunities for the visually impaired people of the nation. In 1999, they received “Druk Thuksey” highest honour to be achieved in the land, from His Majesty the fourth king. While Mr. Sonam Dorji, who worked as a night guard for 10 years resigned from the service, Mr. PemaGyeltshen, who worked as a teacher for thirteen years decided to go for a transfer to Tsirang for domestic reasons. Mrs. Sonam Wangmo, the librarian, decided to go for a transfer to Chukha Dzongkhag. The only non-national teacher of the institute, who was originally recruited for deaf education, but was placed in NIVI had expired his contract and had extended for one more year.

NIVI was blessed with the completion of 4 teachers quarters and the principal’s quarter. The director General of DSE, inaugurated and handed over to the institute. Immediately four teachers who were residing out of the institute campus moved in. The principal also moved to the newly built quarter beside the gate of the institute.

There were other very important historical moments NIVI participated. On 25th of June, NIVI mourned along with the rest of the nation for the loss of historical monument of the nation, “The Wangdiphodrang Dzong”. NIVI students and staff had a long prayer offering butter lamps. Marking the 100 years of modern education, NIVI joined the “Sherig Century” walk. 5 staff members and 10 students joined the rest of the schools of Trashigang Dzongkhag, walking from their respective school to Trashigang . As it is a common sight to see dogs in the boarding school, fed from the left over of the children, many dogs had joined the walk. We were informed that more then ten dogs reached Trashigang, when the walk was completed. While the rest of the students and teachers took their return journey by bus, perhaps, the dogs either got lost or had to trace back to their respective home schools.

There were times, the institute had to grieve. The death of Father of Lopen Karma Norbu, principal’s mother, the death of my father and the death of Lopen Karma’s Wife’s father, were the dark days for the institute. The news of kidney failure of principal was a heart breaking one. Yet he goes for monthly check up and keeps on working hard.

Low vision assessment conducted in October was a great support for the institute. Thanks to Dr. Dechen. She had brought along a team of eye specialists from Mongar and Gaylephu Hospitals and Australia. The parents and students were thoroughly checked, recommended for surgery or glasses and advised the teachers how to provide support.

After many years of gap, the students were taken to visit Drametse, where they spent a night. The had the opportunity to touch and feel many of the important relics of the Lhakhang. This practice of taking the children out widely popular in 1970s and 1980s had been discontinued for a long time which was revived this year.

In addition to the day to day teaching and the co-curricular activities as per the academic calendar of games and sports competitions, singing, and literary activities, the students were taken for picnic. In fact, that is the one of the best time children enjoy; listening to the river flowing, leaves rustling with the cool wind blowing against their faces. While most of the cooking would be assigned to the teachers and staff, the low vision students who could help were also actively involved.

Khaling Tshechu is yet another time children keep on counting the days for. As practice of the past, the teachers and staff were divided for the three days and accordingly framed roster for escorting children. They ensured that the students are safely taken to Gonpa and safely brought back to the hostel.

Commemoration of International White Cane Day on the 15th of October is an annual feature. Unlike the years of the past, this year’s celebration was concentrated more within the school. There was a forum where the students shared the difficulties faced before knowing the technique of using a white cane. Some teachers spoke on the importance, the background and the history of the white cane.

International Day for the People with Disabilities, on 3rd December is one of the most important days in the annual academic calendar. As usual, the parents were invited. At 9 in the morning, the celebration began with the hoisting of the national flag, singing of national anthem which was followed by the welcome speech, the importance of the day and other talks. The parents had the opportunity to see their children playing games and singing and playing music’s. In the evening, the students were awarded certificates. Some of the staff who completed Braille Literacy Programmed also was awarded, Students and staff who participated the Sherig Century Walk were also received certificates. After the dinner, the day was ended with the declaration of the result. Four received fast track promotion, and only three had failed.

Yesterday, Mr. Tshongpen Wangdi, the principal was awarded “”Tama” the medal for his longest service for the nation. He is then the 4th person to receive medal amongst the teachers of the institute.

Thank you for reading the long, long e-mail. As we look ahead for the next academic year 2013, I must not forget to mention that 2013 marks the 40th birth anniversary of this institute.

While many assume that we have marched a long way off, for those of us, who have been here for a long time, feels that we are still far behind. While we lack a specialized Mathematics teacher, no teacher has any certificate of teaching Braille, or in special education. The strategies followed in the institute are on trial and error. Infrastructure would make us wonder whether or not this is an institution for the visually impaired.

Integrated education that began in 1979, six years after the establishment, still seems very new system. As if of the very first day, the mainstream schools entirely depend on NIVI. After 36 years of integration, by this time, there should have been strong supportive mechanism in respective school. Unfortunately, this is not the case. As we look ahead for the new academic year, I feel we must give a thought how can these issues be addressed.

Thanking for your kind attention.
Web master