KP Sharma

In response to the increasing number of drug users, particularly among students, the National Drug Task Force (NDTF) has directed the Ministry of Education and Skill Development to accelerate the establishment of a special school in Yonphula, Trashigang.

However, according to the Prime Minister’s office, the details of the school have not been finalised yet.

This directive, according to the relevant agencies, is timely given the urgency of the issue in the country.

The directive signals the government’s prioritisation of the issue and its commitment to addressing.

During the second Meet-the-Press session, the Prime Minister said that the government spent about Nu 538 million to address drug-related cases among students last year.

To tackle the drug-related issues in schools, the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of raising awareness among students.

The government is also planning the introduction of mandatory drug tests for all students in schools.

The task force’s aim to have the school running by early July 2024 signals a sense of urgency in addressing the issue among students.

Failing to act promptly could exacerbate substance-related problems and increase risks such as academic underachievement, mental health issues and involvement in criminal activities, aaccording to some school teachers.

According to Namgay Dorji, a school teacher in Thimphu, the endorsement of a comprehensive framework for the national response to address substance-related issues by the task force is a stepping stone towards a more co-ordinated and effective approach towards tackling substance use in the country.

According to Namgay Dorji, the framework may include strategies for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation as well as measures to address the underlying social and economic factors contributing to substance use.

The framework also mandates the establishment of a referral pathway for individuals who test positive for drugs and ensures a pathway for those in need of further support and intervention are connected to appropriate services in a timely manner.

A school counsellor in Samtse said that such specialised schools will provide targeted support for students struggling with substance use-related issues and by offering specialised education and resources, it can address the needs of these students more effectively. “The school can prevent escalation of problems and provide necessary interventions to help students overcome challenges related to drug use.”

Many teachers believe that such initiatives could promote community involvement and awareness of substance use issues—by mobilising various stakeholders, including teachers, parents, and community leaders, the response becomes more comprehensive and sustainable.

In the past, students facing drug use problems lacked sufficient guidance and corrective measures for various reasons. Some were referred to improvement centres, while others received support from school counsellors.

Although not confirmed, the rumours are circulating around that the new school is likely to be established in the former Kelki school in Yonphula which has been vacant since it was used as a Covid-19 hospital as the structures perfectly suit for a school set up.