… both teachers and students have to undergo the tests

Tshering Palden 

Schools in Thimphu are asking parents to sign consent letters to allow their children to attend random tests for controlled drugs.

This comes after the officiating education secretary Karma Galay’s notification on July 20.

The notification stated that the ministry and Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) will be testing staff and students for illegal controlled drugs and substances in schools soon.

Schools through a previous notification from the ministry were working on drawing up Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for drug-free school programme.   

Karma Galay asked schools to strategise stringent approaches and inform students and parents of the misconduct and consequences.

His notification made reference to the recent arrest of 16 students arrested for alleged gang fights in Thimphu. “It must be taken as a wake-up call for the entire education fraternity, parents and our communities. Moreso, our schools must ensure proactive programs and services to prevent and curb such incidences. It is our responsibility.”

The school, parents or guardians and teachers will be held accountable for the lapses, for

which, the ministry directed dzongkhag, thromde and school to involve parents or guardians and relevant stakeholders concerned in preventing and curbing such incidences.

Police Chief Major General Chimi Dorji on July 13 wrote to Karma Galay saying that the police will carry out extensive patrolling to curb the increasing number of students’ involvement in assault, battery and abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (NDPS).

He said that police records show that students arrested to date for the above crimes were also in possession of weapons such as knives, clubs, rods, knuckledusters and sticks.

“It is also learnt that students very often engage in these violent crimes in groups (gang) which is an impediment to society,” the Chief’s letter stated.

He said that with the country opening up for tourism, the police will be carrying out a series of activities towards rooting out youth violence by rigorously arresting, detaining and prosecuting them. “The RBP Is also gearing up towards cleaning up the towns by setting things in order before the arrival of the tourists.”

Since most of the youths comprise students, the police chief asked the education ministry to issue directives to all education officials in the dzongkhags and heads of schools to inculcate the right values and a sense of civic responsibility “by not engaging in fights, forming gangs and carrying weapons of offence”.

Major General Chimi Dorji said: “At any point if anybody is caught while carrying out a criminal act, (he or she) will be arrested, detained and prosecuted without any opportunities for bail or sureties. At such times the police might also question the teachers on their accountability towards the student.”

Thimphu schools  respond 

The heads of schools in Thimphu, thromde officials and experts on anti-drugs met for two days to chalk out a school-based substance use prevention framework and Standard Operating Procedure for drug-free schools. Schools are also working to form a prevention Leadership Action Team.

Schools are preparing action plans and SOP on how to carry out drug tests. Tests will be carried out only after these systems are in place.

As gang fights are on the rise, the schools are now asked to report disciplinary matters to the thromde office immediately.

In case a student comes in conflict with the law the concerned school has to admit them only after they produce an undertaking or “concern letter” from the police or BNCA. All schools are asked to plan and work for academic rigour and discipline in the school.

Schools also have to create awareness about the ill effects of drugs and institute a prevention framework policy strictly.