Pursuing higher studies was a challenge when Pema Thinley did not qualify for any colleges in 2016. “I wanted to continue my training as an athlete and also continue my education,” he said.
Pema Thinley is a national sprinter with the Bhutan Amateur and Athletics Federation. He was in class VIII when he joined the federation in 2012.
Today, the 19-year-old national sprinter is continuing his studies at the Royal Thimphu College (RTC). He is studying Bachelor in Computer Application under RTC- Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) Scholarship that began in 2012. He is among the many national athletes supported by Sports Excellence and Achievement (SEA) scholarship offered by BOC.
SEA scholarship was started in line with His Majesty The King’s vision to encourage the growth of sports as an integral part of academic experience of youth activity. “BOC introduced the scholarship to encourage and enable promising young sportspersons to continue their academic pursuit,” the scholarship guidelines states.
In an earlier interview with Kuensel, BOC Secretary-General, Sonam Karma Tshering said that the initiative is aimed at keeping talented sportsmen in the country and not lose them to international colleges. “It’s also to change the mindset of those who think that there is no future in sports.”
According to records with BOC, there are 79 students on various sports scholarship. The figure could be higher had proper records been maintained. Assistant programme officer at BOC, Jigme Thinley, said the committee is in the process of renewing the RUB-BOC scholarships for 2017. “More than Nu 2.8 million is spent on the scholarship annually.”
RUB-BOC scholarship began in 2014 and the committee started offering five scholarships slots to study Diploma in Physical Education and Sports Coaching this year.
Finance officer at Bhutan Football Federation Chencho said the federation supports around 55 girls at Gelephu football academy and another 55 boys of Changjiji football academy with basic education.
He said the federation supports athletes with uniforms, stationery, school fees and other required apparels. “The expenditure is at least Nu 2.5 million a year. We also support players with high school education scholarship.”
A SEA scholarship student at RTC Dechen Wangmo said the scholarship helps athletes gain encouragement and support from parents. “Girls are less encouraged in sports, and such scholarship would promote a level playing field for men and women. It also motivates parents to encourage their children to take up sports.”
The Department of Youth and Sports started a school sports scholarship scheme in 2016 to support outstanding athlete students continue their education until higher secondary school. There are seven students on this scholarship.