The future of the country lies in investing wisely in education. Unfortunately, this is not happening.
Perhaps we should recall the Royal Kashos issued to the people of this country in December last year at Punakha Dzong and put the real problems in the right perspective.
When thousands of Bhutanese children who truly deserve government support to continue their education aren’t getting the support, the ministries responsible should be at least clear as to what their mandates are.
The finance ministry has one thing to say, the education ministry the other. What is now coming off clearly is that our planners and implementers of the plans do not talk or face each other eye-to-eye. There is, thus, the widening gap. And this is proving to be very expensive for a certain section of the Bhutanese population—the country’s future.
There is something called the “Annual Block Grant”, and there is also a guideline as to how these grants must be used. However, the sectors, departments, sections, and the many units aren’t clear as to how they should appropriate the budget.
When the finance ministry’s notification to the education sector said that there is no separate budget provision for procurement of uniform, bedding, and stationery in this fiscal year, the schools had to make tight adjustments.
The importance of clarity here is critically necessary, for the sake of good governance. The government may have decided to discontinue the practice of transferring funds to the central and autonomous schools in the forms of grants, but the finance minister saying that “no where the notification indicated that we’re withdrawing free stationery and uniform”, is difficult to understand.
“It only means that the separate budget was withdrawn for autonomous and central schools because Annual Block Grant is allocated to all agencies,” Finance Minister Namgay Tshering, said. And how did school administrators not understand this? Can they even?
Education has always received a special priority in the grand scheme of national development. There will be emergencies, but emergencies should be put in the right development perspective. If the government must save, there are better ways to do it than simply stifling the future of thousands of children.
And this begs another, more important, question: are we scrapping whole idea of building resourceful and responsible citizens?
The answer must come from finance and education ministries, and clearly.
Ministries and planners are there not for nothing. What we are lacking today is a clear vision. And, by the way, shaping a long-term vision for a nation requires courage to work together. If each ministry, department and unit thinks that they are individually more important than the more sublime and bigger national dream, we have a serious problem brewing in the system.
To put it plainly, why could the finance ministry not be clearer and the education ministry not find reasons to raise questions? These unnecessary hurdles can destroy a generation. We can’t afford that.