With the start of the school holidays, a pressing question for Bhutanese parents and society as a whole is how the tens of thousands of school children can spend their time productively and away from undesirable habits and activities.
It is a problem that has been growing by the year as our student population continues to increase and the picture of unemployed youth become more visible.
This year, various agencies and organisations have announced a number of initiatives to not only provide healthy recreation facilities for the youth in urban areas but also to give them some productive exposure to basic life skills, hobbies, and sports. These include talk shows, project works, life skills workshops, trekking and camping, among others. There will be myriad coaching camps for sports, music, coding, and academic lessons.
However, these activities are focused around urban centres where a larger number of youths “hang out” and where most frustrations tend to build up. More important, these are places where unhealthy distractions are also mushrooming helplessly.
The problem in Bhutan is not just with school holidays. In most of our towns, there is a need for healthy recreation facilities for youth, an issue that is likely to become more acute by the year.
The image of youth recreation facilities across the country are not promising. Even as the government takes up the issue, the private sector moves faster.
Over the years, we have seen an increasing number of expensive private sporting facilities open up in urban areas. However, these facilities are open only for those who can pay. This development comes when the public facilities are either in poor condition or non-existent in some areas.
The number of entertainment centres such as video game parlours, is escalating. The excitement of electronic games draws children by the thousands and has already become one of the most popular recreational activities for Bhutanese youth.
The concern is not uncommon. Every society is dealing with these problems. When youth are brought together as a group, the energy is vigorous. Therefore, they need healthy outlets.
The past trend has been petty crimes increasing in winter when school and related institutions close. Young people are known to involve in brawls in towns. A reason, again, is believed to be the amount of unplanned time on their hands and inadequate attention from elders.
What’s the best option?
Send our children to the villages, even just for a week or two. The impact can be significant, for it is in the roots not the branches that a tree’s greatest strength lies.