Many Bhutanese supported a young teenage girl appearing in a gymnastics competition in Western Australia for her talent and lauded her as a future Olympic gold medalist for Bhutan. While most of them were encouraging her, what stood out through that episode was that our children can excel provided they are given the platform.
Therefore, it is painful to hear that our only public swimming pool in the country remains closed since 2016 for the sole reason that it could have given colour to the dreams of many aspiring Bhutanese swimmers.
Because for some parents, these things matter more than making money, fame or prestige. They want to see their children do better in life and not necessarily in academic education alone. So not all those who leave the country to work abroad do so to make easy money, own mansion-like homes or luxurious cars.
It was also for the same reasons that the opening of a swimming pool in Tsirang was celebrated with much fanfare. Many of the residents in Tsirang are excited to learn to swim or teach their children.
The biggest life skill that swimming teaches children is the skill of safety. It is a life skill that children will retain for most of their life. It’s one sport that has the potential to be a true lifesaver.
Without a public pool, swimming is an expensive hobby. To swim in a hotel pool for an hour is beyond the means of many.
As families try to survive in the urban atmosphere, under pressure from the increasing cost of living and changing lifestyle, we are finding it difficult to hold families together. We are finding it difficult to keep our youth at home and to keep them occupied with healthy activities. We have nowhere to channel the energy and vitality of youth.
That is also partly why we have rising youth issues. That is why we need to encourage sports among youth. Apart from physical talent, it is an activity that builds personality and character.
We have already thought of youth clubs, sports clubs, camps, libraries, and other activities for them. We are finding it difficult to deliver because of a lack of funds and, to an extent, a lack of commitment. Perhaps it does not work because we have left it entirely to the government to deal with the problem.
Some estimates show that we will have to create around 80,000 jobs for the youth in the next five years. Of that, a small fraction might go to the Royal Institute of Management to join the civil service. A few hundred will be absorbed into the corporations and our small private sector. Where will the rest go?
Sports have the answer. Over the years, we have seen football, in particular, grow into a major sport in the country even beating archery, our national sport. Investment in modern facilities was a huge boost to its success. However, the turfs remain out of reach for many who cannot pay to play.