Parenting: The government urges parents to take better care of their children after the two youth-related stabbing cases, one fatal, occurred within a week this month in Thimphu.

“The stabbing case is very serious and each case must be taken seriously,” Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said at the Meet-the-Press yesterday. “We must put an end to it.”

He said the government must step up its measures and that it will support the police and all other agencies to the extent required to discharge their responsibilities.

The government is sitting with agencies and discussing the issue.

Home minister Dawa Gyaltshen said that urban areas like Thimphu, Paro, and Phuentsholing are prone to such incidents. Thimphu leads the chart with eight stabbing cases till date, the minister said.

Last year, the government initiated frisking of youth on streets in groups after 10pm. “This initiative was shot down by the Parliament on human rights concerns,” Lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen said.

Without such measures the police have no way of knowing who are carrying weapons, he said.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said that the media should support the government if it is coming up with stringent measures to curb crime.

Alcohol and drug consumption has to be curbed to control these kinds of problems, health minister Tandin Wangchuk said.

“If the solution comes from the government it is not a sustainable solution, the solution must come from proper parenting,” Lyonchoen said.

The government intervening in such matters is being seen as the last choice. “But if push comes to shove then we might have to intervene but that is the least best option in these matters,” Lyonchoen said.

“The responsibility ultimately lies with the parents,” he said, adding that it should not be up to the government.  “Government cannot engage in social engineering, it is up to us as a society,” he said.

“As a society and individual parents we have to ask ourselves: is it okay for our child to drink or not. If not we better do something about it,” he said. “Don’t wait for the government to do something about it.”

He added: “The government should not say children should not be out at 1am. As a society we have to decide … As individual parents we bear individual responsibility.”

Letting youth loiter unsupervised allows them to partake in unhealthy activities, the ministers said.

If parents are okay with children loitering outside at night then the parents have to accept consequences as well, Lyonchoen said.

Education minister Norbu Wangchuk pointed out that the two stabbing cases occurred immediately after closure of the schools and start of the summer vacation indicating that the schools have been doing a good job at engaging the youth.

“The failure is on the part of the home front,” Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said. “There is a failure on the part of the guardians and parents.”

Poor performance in academics, involvement in drugs, absenteeism in the schools, is a result of lack of pastoral care at home, the education ministry has found, the minister said.

However, he said that the schools don’t put the blame entirely on parents. The schools try their best, he added.

The minister said that the education ministry is now reinforcing the parenting skills in schools. The schools will involve parents with their children. “We’ve been involving parents to find time because the schools after 4pm, if it’s a day-school, we lose control over the children,” he said.

He added that some of the parents don’t care because they lack parenting skills and some of them simply don’t have time. “That’s why the parenting programmes are being received well.”

The education minister also sees the Central School programme as a solution to this problem.

The minister said that the experience from the 51 Central Schools show that students are being cut off from access to drugs, discipline problems are decreasing, and academic performance improving.

He said about 80 percent of children in urban areas like Thimphu and Phuentsholing live with guardians, relatives and some even are living unsupervised in rented apartments.

“That’s why we thought of allowing boarding schools in urban areas to keep children under supervision,” the minister said.

Lyonchoen said that the claim that Thimphu does not have enough facilities is a lame excuse. He said there is no dearth of modern healthy activities in Thimphu whereas in the rural areas, which do not have such facilities, there is hardly any such cases.

He said that parents hardly take their children to the libraries, museums and other centres and therefore are not making the best use of the existing resources.

The question is are we using the facilities enough, Lyonchoen said.

Tshering Palden