Of the total 4,668 students recorded for abusing drugs in 2016, about 4,000 are from schools in Thimphu, education minister Norbu Wangchuk said at the National Assembly during the question hour session on May 26.

The students were either found abusing marijuana, smoking and chewing tobacco.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said that all instead of terminating them, schools handle this issue according to the school disciplinary policy, by guiding and reforming students.

The minister was responding to Nyishog-Sephug’s member of parliament (MP) Kuenga, who had asked the minister on the education ministry’s policies to deal and reform students who were caught abusing drugs.

MP Kuenga said termination from school was not a solution and that it would have adverse effect on the students. “Instead it is the schools’ responsibility to help and guide them by giving counseling or by sending them to schools where drugs cannot reach them,” he said.

He said that the best place to reform them is through education ministry and termination would impact especially children from poor family background. The ministry, he said, should look into ways to stop such practices.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said it was a concern that a majority of students caught abusing drugs were from schools in Thimphu and that the number was alarming.

“This is why it is not only the education ministry’s but also the responsibility of both parents and teachers to help guide students constantly to keep them away from abusing drugs,” Lyonpo said. “As per the disciplinary policies, we don’t terminate students directly but give them opportunity to reform themselves and only a few cases were terminated directly.”

The minister added that most students are day scholars and teachers could give attention only during school hours. It was found that most students abused drugs while returning home, he said. “But the cases are not as alarming in other dzongkhags.”

Lyonpo said the establishment of central schools has also helped guide students regularly and helped them quit the habit since schools have counselors.

“I am told that the counseling has benefitted students as they have time to be with students from morning until evening everyday,” he said.

Lyonpo also informed the house that as per the disciplinary policies in place, if students are caught abusing drugs for the first time, they are advised to stop abusing. If caught for the second time, parents are called to school and it is repeated for the third time, then the committee discusses and decides to warn both students and parents.

A student is suspended or terminated from school if he/she is caught abusing drugs for the fourth time.

“That is why there is no record of students being terminated at the first instance,” Lyonpo said. “If they are terminated directly then it indicates the weakness of both the school and teacher for failing to fulfill their responsibility to reform the students.”

Yangchen C Rinzin