KP Sharma

To improve the health and well-being of students, the government over the years has prioritised the improvement of psycho-social support programmes in schools across the country.

According to the Ministry of Education and Skill Development, it has initiated the mentor-mentee programme, the establishment of well-being focal teachers, spiritual programmes, online counselling services, and students’ resilience development programmes to enhance the health and well-being of students and youths within the school.

The State of the Nation Report 2023 stated about 24 gender and child focal persons (GCFPS) from 20 dzongkhags and four thromdes received training and are responsible for delivering timely service to women and children who need care and protection.

Further, three additional workplace facilities were established, bringing the total number of creche services to 28.

The report further mentioned the introduction of the ‘I support my friends-peer helpers’ programme which aims to support students facing academic, personal, and social challenges after distressing events.

A selected group of students will act as a bridge connecting vulnerable students with well-being focal persons and counsellor to provide assistance to those who require support.

This initiative seeks to identify potential risks and provide necessary interventions.

As per the official record, the programme benefitted 4,022 students comprising 2,254 girls and 1,768 boys from 128 schools nationwide.

According to an official from the ministry, the mentor-mentee programme that previously existed has been standardized and implemented uniformly in all the schools across the country.

“Children must have some space to talk to someone in a smaller group and seek the necessary guidance,” the official said.

The ministry has established a school well-being team which consists of the school principal, the well-being focal teacher, or counsellor.

They are responsible to strategise and implement the guidance of the PEMA secretariat.

With the expertise and support from the PEMA secretariat, there are additional projects in progress such as the Special Education Need (SEN) programme aimed at enhancing support for certain vulnerable students.

The programme is being rolled out in selected dzongkhags and thromdes in the second phase, following the completion of the first phase which ended in June this year.

As per the official record with the ministry, more than 1700 teachers and principals have received training under this programme.

The programme’s second phase commenced in August in the remaining dzongkhags and is expected to conclude within October this year.

The ministry has also initiated the winter enrichment or leadership training for children who have experienced violence or abuse.

Approximately 60 to 65 youths participate in this two to three-week training, which focuses on addressing various challenges, coping with skills, and instilling resilience in them.

Recognising the importance of mental health and in response to the growing mental health issues student face, the Royal Civil Service Commission has expanded the available slots in postgraduate counselling categories from just three to 30 this year.