Symposium: The school authority was questioned but no legal charges were framed when two students committed suicide in Chumey, Bumthang last year.

Before the incident, school authorities had warned the two students about their relationship and their parents. The issue was presumed to have been resolved until the students took their lives.

As a responsible institution, Thimphu thromde school principals said that schools do need to enforce disciplinary measures to a certain degree.

However, in doing so if a student commits such acts, the principals asked how differently should schools handle such situation?

The principals are attending a three-day symposium on Rights of Child, Penal Code of Bhutan and other laws that protect child rights.

Although, they didn’t receive concrete answers to the daily disciplinary problems a school faced, the 33 principals were made aware of the existing laws prohibiting corporal punishment.

Some principals pointed out that disciplinary issue such as drug possession was dealt within the school as per the school disciplinary policy instead of reporting to police.  They asked if the school was liable for not reporting the crime.

One of the principals also suggested that for better understanding, there was a need for inclusion of relevant child rights legal provisions in the syllabus.

So that children learn it in school, which would help them not to come in conflict with law.

Rinchen Higher Secondary School Principal Tshering Dorji said the symposium was long awaited. “Often, school authorities especially principals are caught in confusion if what they are doing is right or wrong, while implementing the school discipline policy,” he said.

High Court Justice Lungten Dubgyur shared on the ways of drawing a legal agreement, types of evidence, corporal punishment and zero tolerance in schools and the Penal Code of Bhutan.  Bhutan National Legal Institute’s  (BNLI) director Pema Wangchuk gave a snapshot of international instruments on the rights of children.

Lawyer Tharchean of BNLI also explained about Child Rights Convention, protection of child in contact with laws and rights of offenders.

Meanwhile Thimphu thromde’s education officials said although there is discipline policy in all schools, there is a need to explore further since it often comes in conflict with the Penal Code of Bhutan.

“Through this symposium we aim to prepare schools in framing a discipline policy that best suits them,” deputy chief thromde education officer, Lham Tshering said.

The Thimphu thromde organised the three-day symposium with technical support from Bhutan National Legal Institute.

Nirmala Pokhrel