Government must walk in to help students in need

Helping students from weedier economic backgrounds was a good idea. The good idea, though, was sure to end up in dire straits. To begin with, there was the haste; consultations could have been more meaningful. That did not happen. There was the speed but not a long-term “national” dream.

This, as the people warned from the beginning, is now coming true. There are a few institutions and development programmes that cannot be used for political or other gains. Education is one.

The fact today is that there are 12,050 students identified as “needy students”. What this means is that their future is uncertain because they could be denied the opportunity to continue their education. When close to 157,000 students in the country cannot continue their education because it is expensive for them, the problem is serious; more than 12,000 students are at the verge of giving up school education.

What is coming out starkly here is that our data and development policies do not meet in a place where they should. Short-sightedness has been and is our problem, particularly among the development planners. The real danger today is that this could influence the way we plan, work, and roll out development activities—individually and nationally. This will be expensive in the long run.

The students identified as deserving candidates must continue to receive the fairing or the “freebies”, as educationists and decision-makers in the ministry put it, unfeelingly all the worse. What we are doing or giving now is an investment, providing equal opportunities to the custodians of our nation’s future. What could be more detrimental and a painful experience is when what we invest now in education does not serve its purpose in the future of this country and her people.

From the many interviews we have conducted and reports available to us, the main problem today is miscommunication between teachers, educationists and the officials sitting in the finance ministry. A lot more happens in between, we know. Bureaucracy, they say, is a mechanism run by pygmies. That’s going a little too far, but it sure is the beginning of death of any achievement.

All these developments, or the lack of it, should be understood in the context of the Royal Kasho issued to the people of Bhutan in general and to the education ministry and RCSC in particular.

Teachers and educationists have been pushing for support from the government to the students so that the system does not discount any Bhutanese for what their economic status is. The question is where and how did it all happen so that a large number of Bhutanese children today stand to lose the opportunity to fight and excel in their various dreams to do well personally and contribute meaningfully to the making of this nation.

 In a society that we took years to build and hallowed it with the ideals of gross national happiness, depriving a certain (sizeable) section of our people to participate in the nation’s future and shared prosperity is darkly unfair.

It is incumbent on the government of the day to ensure that not a single Bhutanese child is left out because he or she can’t pay for education. Failing which, there will not be a bigger shame and pain for the nation.

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