The activity was initiated to know the children better and to understand their problems

Tuesday morning is a special time for the students of Zilukha Middle Secondary School (MSS) in Thimphu.

The 45-minutes quality time-sharing period allows students to spend time with teachers and share their experiences, both happy and sad.

With several activities in schools focused on academic activities, Zilukha MSS’s principal, Dawa Tshering, said the school decided to initiate the programme.

Between 8:30am and 9:15am on Tuesdays, the school does not hold morning assembly. Instead, students form a circle with the teacher at the center and share their moments of happiness and sadness.

“So much is focused only on academics – schools ratings are done through academic performance and various other programmes are also academically inclined,” the principal said.

He said that although the Department of Youth and Sports has a lot of programmes, but often these do not receive much attention from the schools or are not taken seriously.

“That’s why we thought why not we do something different at the school and allot one period for enrichment every week. That is how quality time sharing period came about last year.”

Over time, students started sharing problems they experience such as peer pressure, bullying, problems at home, domestic violence and substance abuse.

The school to date hasn’t come across a sexual harassment case

The main objective of the activity is to listen to the students, know them better, and to help teachers intervene on time. The school has 1,051 students with 54 teachers and 12 non-teaching staff.

Dawa Tshering said that through such activity, the school was able to find some students who were experiencing problems at home but did not know where to report. He said the teachers also try to gather information and help the student consult a counsellor.

He added that they also conduct school parenting education where parents of students who are in problem are called to inform and discuss issues faced by their children.

“As a follow up, we also started a one teacher one-child programme where 54 teachers in the school have adopted 54 students who are critically in need of help and need guidance,” principal said.

The school has also managed to help students through Menjong foundation and some receive kidu as well.

“This has helped students to come forward and express both minor and major problems they face,” Dawa Tshering said. “Although bullying still exists, it has drastically reduced including disciplinary issues.”

The school also organises talks on GNH, health and physical education, media literacy for class V-VI, health and art for students of PP- class IV.

In the absence of a full time counsellor, the school’s two English teachers, who have received basic counselling training, serve as school counsellors.

One of the teacher counsellors, Passang Wangmo, said they are doing as much as possible to help the students, but it would be different if the school had a full time counsellor.

“It’s difficult sometimes because we have to take classes and we’re unable to give enough time to students,” she said. “Students could approach a full time counsellor anytime because some of them are in dire need of a counsellor.”

She said that the school has also started a three hours comprehensive session after they realised that some girls were not willing to share their problems.

Having all girl students together helps the teachers teach them a good touch from a bad touch.

“With this, few girls have started sharing some incidents,” she said. “We’re also planning to have a similar session with for boys.”

Yangchen C Rinzin