Kuensel reports that some remote schools did not have principals for years.  The news further states that there is an education policy not to send principals if schools have less than one hundred students. These are clear signs of deliberate discrimination and violation of the constitutional right to education. His Majesty said: “ It is not enough to provide free education – we must provide education of such quality that it will guarantee a distinguished place for our youth anywhere in the world.” 

Going by the reports, these schools are seriously affected by a lack of principals, compromising the quality of the education.

OECD defines the school principals as the “heart of the education system, connecting education authorities, teachers, students and communities” where “good leadership in schools fosters nurturing learning environments that help children grow and develop.” The good principals can “cultivate such an environment, school heads must navigate and promote collaboration across the often-complex network of stakeholders.”

Article 9 of our Constitution requires the State to provide free “education to improve and increase knowledge, values and skills of the entire population with education being directed towards the full development of the human personality.”

Explaining this, His Majesty during the public consultation of the draft constitution in Bumthang, said: “In our country, our people are the biggest and the most important wealth. In other countries, some have oil and petroleum wealth while some have mineral resources such as gold, pearls, gemstones etc. Since we do not have such wealth, our people are our priced and the most important wealth. It is vital to provide good education to the people.” His Majesty further reiterated: “The fact that our children are in schools will not serve the purpose. We should also see how they are studying and how the teachers are teaching the students.”

Article 7, Section 15 of our Constitution, prohibits the State from any form of discrimination on the grounds of “race, sex, language, religion, politics or another status.” The government may have good reasons and intentions not to have principals in some schools from a logistical and administrative perspective. However, when these schools are deprived of principals purely on the number of students or remoteness of locations, it is clear discrimination between the students in these schools and other schools. 

Our policies instead should incentivise economically or geographically disadvantaged students who are in smaller numbers by placing the best principals to cope with the rest of the schools in quality education. Due to rapid development, children in remote areas are already suffering from lack of modern technologies and infrastructure compared to their urban cousins. 

In absence of a Right to Education Law, political parties often turn education into a political manifesto and use education like Guinea pig every time there is a change in government.

For example, many principals are currently undergoing leadership training in RIGGS which will immensely benefit the schools upon their return. However, schools without principals are deprived of having such well-groomed and trained leaders to lead them. 

The policymakers and the government must take cognizance of quality education of our children. His Majesty said: “if our Vision for the nation is not contained in the pages of the books that our young children hold, in the words of our teachers as they lead their classrooms, and in the education policies of our governments, then let it be said – we have no Vision.”

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.