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Thursday, July 21, 2011

The board that defined yesteryear kindergarten days

It will not be difficult for most Bhutanese to imagine attending kindergarten classes without a notebook or a pencil. Most of the middle aged and older Bhutanese have done exactly that, thanks to the small rectangular slate boards that used to fit comfortably in the traditional hand-woven Bhutanese bags hanging on one shoulder which served as school bags.
Using the slate board, popularly known as slates, was, to say the least, adventurous for toddlers then.
They used to write on the black slate with a white chalk, rub it off when it was full and write on it all over again. Excuse sanitary lessons, but spitting on the slate and cleaning it with the gho or kira cuff was more than normal.
Unlike the notebooks, the children couldn’t afford to drop the precious slate because it would break and they would then invite the fury of both their teachers and parents. Thus, if a child wanted to get back at any of his classmates, breaking his slate was the first option. As a result, most of the fights among children would be because of the slate board or the precious slender white chalks that inked the board.
Slates with wooden frames and white chalks were provided by schools and better endowed students used to show off by buying colourful chalks and carrying fancy bags.
The advantage of slates over paper was that it could be wiped clean and used repeatedly.
But it had more downslides to it. It was more than a challenge to remember what was written earlier. Once it was rubbed off, there was no turning back to the lessons learnt. It was a one way sport and there was no solution to it.
Homeworks used to make it even worse and remembering what was taught in the class and writing it back was a nightmare.
Children were encouraged to bring a damp cloth or sponge to clean the slate in the classroom but it would be stolen which ended up in fights.
It was also a challenge for children to reach home and face their mother with a chalk-smothered gho or half the homework missing from the slates. If one dropped a slate on his way home, he was probably heading for a beating back home.
If one broke his slate, getting another was difficult. Therefore, it was not uncommon to see children carrying broken slate boards. Something was better than nothing after all.
The above experiences can only be inscribed in memoirs today. With notebooks, the experience of classroom learning has been transformed and much more coordinated.


  1. Interesting post. It reminded my childhood days.