Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - 6:33 AM
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More than a thousand devotees gathered to receive blessings from the Bardo cham during the Khandro Kongzha tshechu, which is performed in Tsakaling gewog in Mongar every three years. The tsechu ended on January 19.


PM orders immediate solution to B.Ed issue

This comes in the wake of RCSC announcing 182 vacancies for 417 B.Ed. graduates 

Employment: Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay called for an emergency meeting yesterday for the Royal Civil Service Commission, education ministry and labour ministry to review the B.Ed. graduates issue and come up with immediate solutions, while also exploring job prospects for them in the coming years.

The education ministry and RCSC were directed to immediately undertake a re-assessment of the teacher deployment, and decide how many of them could be employed on contract.

“Lyonchhoen directed education ministry, Gross National Happiness Commission Secretariat and RCSC on recruitment of B.Ed. graduates on contract in the central schools,” a press release from the prime minister’s office stated.

This comes after the B.Ed. graduate outcry on the number of vacancies announced by RCSC.  RCSC announced 182 vacancies for the 417 graduates, who are attending civil service selection interview currently.

On the same issue, the prime minister in the last meet-the-press session had said while it was wrong for B.Ed. graduates to expect a guaranteed job in the civil service on completion of their four-year teachers training, it was also a failure on the part of the government all along to have misled the graduates.

“So far, B.Ed. students have understood that, after graduation, they’d get a government job automatically, that was wrong to begin with,” he had said.

Referring to the existing Bhutanese teaching in Thailand, who are happy and satisfied, lyonchhoen asked the labour ministry to immediately get in contact with relevant agencies for enhanced recruitment of Bhutanese in Thailand and abroad, according to the press release.

The prime minister, at the recent Vibrant Gujarat summit, talked to the Australian delegation about sending young Bhutanese to Australia, which, he said, had been received positively.  He said that he would work on it on a priority basis.

In yesterday’s emergency meeting, Business Opportunity and Information Centre (BoIC) was instructed to “aggressively” pursue a plan of action to develop entrepreneurial skills in young Bhutanese for self-employment and to generate jobs.

A joint proposal outlining strategies to address the issue would be submitted at the end of the week.

While the issue of teacher shortage has remained a chronic problem for the education ministry, the country has enough teachers in terms of numbers, education officials had said several times in the past.

Although the Royal University of Bhutan has already notified class XII graduate students, who would like to seek admission to any of the colleges, but it was yet to be decided if the university would continue to enrol the same number of students in the two education colleges.

Vice-chancellor Nedup Dorji said, while the drastic reduction in vacancies was quite unexpected, it was realised that this day would come, and it was the reality at the end of the day.

“For RUB to review its strategic plans, it’s crucial for us to know how many teachers are required for another 5-10 years,” he said. “We’ll have to adapt to the situation. Be agile and respond to external forces.”

He added that the university’s job was to produce quality teacher for the Bhutanese market.  If the decreasing vacancies meant there were enough teachers, he said, RUB might have to diversify some programmes, and focus on professional development courses.

“Education ministry, RCSC and RUB needs to discuss further before the next batch of students are enrolled,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the last two years, 865 new teachers from the two colleges of education were recruited into civil service.  They were B.Ed, post-graduate diploma in education (PGDE) graduates and contract teachers.

But in those two years 440 teachers, including community-based teachers, civil servant teachers, expatriate contract teachers and national contract teachers, left the profession, according to the annual education statistic, 2014.

In an earlier interview, chief human resource officer with the education ministry, Kinley Gyeltshen, had said that the sector was not comfortable with the number of mathematics and physics teacher today, but heading towards becoming comfortable.

“If we go as per student-teacher ratio, we’ve enough teachers,” he had said.

The scarcity allowance that was introduced in the past, when there was teacher shortage, has also been withdrawn since last July, after the finance ministry got an assurance from the education ministry that there were enough mathematics and physics teachers.

According to the education statistics, there are 8,572 teachers as of 2014, with 7,873 teaching in government schools and 699 in private.

By Nirmala Pokhrel

Govt’s indecision will cause irreparable damage: DPT

DSC_3156Meet the Opposition: Members of the opposition meet the press yesterday to share their concerns on current issues

English II: The opposition party says that the government’s decision to not reconduct Class XII English II examination is the case of national administration and governance failure.

“Having known about the leakage, the government has failed to act promptly and decisively. The most desirable and correct thing would have been to re-conduct the exam,” said Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s Dorji Wangdi. “But the indecision and undue delay has left the whole matter to become very complicated.”

According to the party’s communiqué, Class XII examination bears a huge implication on the career and lives of children as it is the real launching pad for their future. “The decision taken by the government will cause irreparable damage to the career and lives of numerous children as it will still not ensure any fairness and equity in English mark, which forms a critical subject for qualification to higher studies and grant of various coveted in-country and ex-country scholarships.”

Further, it says that the government’s stand that it would involve financial and logistic inconveniences to re-conduct the examinations reflects sheer disregard and insensitivity to the career and life of thousands of children. “While it is important to identify and mete out due punishment to the culprit who leaked the paper, it is more important that the government take full responsibility for this serious failure.”

Zangley Dukpa, MP from Khar-Yurung, said that if the government is really concerned about the problem, it will not be difficult to find solutions. “Had the government taken immediate actions upon knowing that there was leakage of English II paper, problems that we are now facing could have been solved.”

The authorities knew of the leakage of the English II paper on December 13 and had five days until schools closed on December 18 to take decisive action, said Zangley Dukpa. “What this indecisiveness on the part of the authorities concerned tells us is that they are not at all concerned. We are playing with the lives of more than 11,000 students.”

Thirty-seven days after the authorities knew of the leakage of English II paper, there are arguments from different quarters that if English II exam is conducted again it might delay result declaration and pose problem of admission in the colleges. But this argument, said Dorji Wangdi, has no basis. “Most of the colleges, both inside and outside the country open only in July or August. Therefore, the most correct thing would be to redo the exam.”

Khandu Wangchuk, MP from Lamgong-Wangchang, said it is not true that students might not make it to the exam centres if English II exam is conducted again. “All the students are waiting in confusion. Because of the pain that this incident has caused and will continue to cause to thousands of students, we have to ensure that such things do not occur in the future.”

Opposition Leader (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said that redoing the exam is probably the least of all the ills. “It is still the best option. In spite of cost and difficulties and hardships, children and parents will still consider it worthwhile to do the exam again…The implication on their [students’] career, prospects and future is beyond comprehension.”

By Jigme Wangchuk 

Govt. must take in all teacher graduates: DPT

Employment: There is surplus of teachers today because of change in the government’s policy, said the opposition party (OP) yesterday and urged the government to take in all the 417 teacher graduates into civil service.

“This is a case of shortage to surplus of teachers because of change in government policy and the present government should take full responsibility,” said Dorji Wangdi, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s MP from Panbang, adding that in the last 47 years ever since the two teacher training colleges were established, not a single teacher graduate was left unemployed.

“All these years we have been talking about teacher shortage, sometimes incidences of severe shortage of teachers in certain subjects,” said Dorji Wandgi. “And when the present government is unable to give them job, the blame is put on the past government. Yes we’ve guaranteed them the jobs. Isn’t it the duty of the government to provide jobs to our teachers or anybody?”

According to the party’s release, the two colleges of education in Samtse and Paro were established specifically to take care of teacher needs, to plan, train and deploy teachers in a systematic manner. All intakes in the past were carefully planned as per the existing and future needs, which in turn was as per the education policy of the government. There was no anomaly or miscalculation in the needs or deployment of teachers.

Zangley Dukpa, MP from Khar-Yurung, said it is due to lack of coordination and planning among relevant agencies and ministries that resulted in cutting down the vacancy for B.Ed graduates. “The two colleges of education enrol certain number of trainees as per teacher requirement put up by the education ministry. There is something going wrong somewhere.”

Opposition leader (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said that in the past the problem was always attracting people to the teaching profession and retaining them and that there are excess teacher graduates today is surprising.

“We demand that they all be rightfully and  gainfully employed in the profession they are trained in,” said Dorji Wangdi.

By Nirmala Pokhrel

Opp. slams govt. for secretaries’ suspension

In its opinion, the CoS had not exceeded its mandate in the action taken

Governance: The opposition has called the government to explain how a letter written to the Indian ambassador had merited its action of penalising three secretaries by surrendering them to RCSC in a senseless and humiliating manner.

In a press conference yesterday, the opposition said that they believe the letter that the foreign secretary wrote was intended to protect the special relationship that exists between Bhutan and India.

The opposition also believes that the committee of secretaries had not exceeded its mandate by discussing issues outside the scope of its terms of reference, nor had it purposely withheld information, including important decisions, from the government.

On December 12, last year, the Cabinet surrendered the Cabinet secretary, Dasho Penden Wangchuk, economic affairs secretary, Dasho Sonam Tshering, and the foreign secretary, Yeshey Dorji, to the civil service commission for action.

Opposition member from Panbang, Dorji Wangdi said that, after getting additional information, the opposition believes that the secretaries were victimised for defending the government’s stand.

“This is a case of victimisation and penalisation of secretaries for actually implementing and executing the directives of the government, for defending the government’s stands, and the sacred Indo-Bhutan relationship,” he said.

The economic affairs secretary was accused of misusing the institution of the committee of secretaries (CoS) to raise, discuss and take action on allegations made on him by a foreign magazine.

Opposition member Dorji Wangdi said the issue came from the economic affairs ministry, and was discussed in the CoS because the economic affairs secretary submitted it as an agenda for CoS.

“He was accused by Inertia (the foreign magazine) of corruption because he wrote to them and defended his minister’s stand on the conclave that Prof Iyer had wanted to organise,” he said. “When the secretary wrote, saying that the government wouldn’t be able to support the conclave, he was seen as being a block and that’s why he was accused.”

South Thimphu’s opposition member, Yeshey Zimba, said there was not much difference when civil servants were surrendered or removed, but when any civil servant erred, there was a process to penalise them.

The opposition said that the government, which came to power on a plane of law abiding political party and the champion of the independence of constitutional offices, found itself in intoxication by power, as was evident from the surrendering of the three secretaries without following the due process of law.

“Now the government is under pressure to follow the due process of law, but sadly having caused the damage, that was painful and inflictive, not only for the three secretaries but for the entire system,” the opposition said.

Yeshey Zimba said that this unwarranted action of the government has not only stunned a large section of the society, but has also sent a wave of fear and a sense of helplessness and insecurity, particularly among the senior officers in the public service sector.

“The security and self respect that are vital for confidence of civil servants in discharging their duties have been shattered and battered,” he said.

Opposition member Khandu Wangchuk, who was also the former economic affairs minister, said the Inertia magazine had accused a senior government official, who was also a member of authority on all the hydropower projects, and not personally against the economic affairs secretary.

“Now if he’d kept quite and hadn’t taken up this issue to CoS, would that have been a right course of action?” he said.

Khandu Wangchuk said that the secretary must have felt that keeping quiet would have implied acceptance and guilt, if the government of India (GoI), who is financing and supporting all these projects, hears of the secretary being corrupt.

“I think he was duty bound to ask GoI to raise the issue with the magazine, and if he had kept quiet, then we should have been more suspicious,” he said. “And the foreign secretary, being the seniormost diplomat, who is fully aware about our foreign policy, would never write a letter, which would harm the relation between the two countries.”

The foreign secretary was indicted for misrepresenting the government by sending a formal letter to the government of India without the approval of the foreign minister or the prime minister.  The cabinet secretary was indicted for not keeping the prime minister informed of the CoS discussions and decisions.

Leader of the opposition  (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho, said that, ideally, all members of CoS should take the responsibility, because the issue was discussed as a committee.

“We’re waiting for RCSC to complete its investigation and come up with a transparent information on how the three secretaries have affected Indo-Bhutan relations, how they have exceeded the mandate of CoS, and how they have failed to inform the PM and the MoEA minister,” he said.

He said that, regardless of how the events may unfold now, RCSC has already said that the Cabinet has not followed the provisions of the civil service Act and the Constitution. “Who is going to take responsibility and be accountable for violating these provisions and for not following due process?” he said.

By Sonam Pelden

A new dilemma

If there is one revered profession in Bhutan, it is teaching.  That’s why many parents advise their children, especially girls, to become teachers – a noble profession.

That was when jobs were aplenty and teaching was the last option for graduates.  In recent times, if there is one thing making headlines, it is the shortage of teachers.  The scenario has changed, suddenly, and now we have hundreds of teacher graduates, who will not be absorbed in government schools because the system is saturated.  Some are already looking for jobs in the financial institutes, not as teachers, but as development officers.

This is a problem.  There are hundreds of eager youth, trained and ready to start a career.   On the other hand, our governments, both past and present, have started a blame game.  There seems to be a solution, at least for the present graduates.  Lyonchhoen has asked relevant agencies and ministries to immediately look into the issue and find solutions.  The education ministry and RCSC will re-assess teacher deployment and come out with a decision to absorb some of them on contract.

But this is short term solution.  What will happen to those in the final year of their training?  There will be no more immediate solutions for them.  Like a few of them hunting for jobs outside teaching today, many will be left on their own, because we have forgotten to plan our needs.  The Royal University of Bhutan (RUB), for instance, doesn’t know the teacher requirement for the next five years, which is crucial for planning.

Teachers are being trained at the expense of the government. Why do we waste our scarce resources to train teachers and then ask them, for example, to start a vegetable business?  They would become better traders or farmers if they were trained for that.

In the meantime, we keep hearing that the quality of education is falling.  The current scenario presents us a good opportunity for a relook into our teaching system and take advantage of it.   If there are excess trained teachers, we could go for specialisation.  Educationists have always pointed out that what we need are quality teachers and not just qualified teachers.

If the future of the nation is in the hands of the youth, the future of the youth is in the hands of the teachers.  Teachers have the responsibility of preparing our future generations for their lives and also for their responsibilities.  Numbers alone will not ensure quality.

Wheelchair ramp to allow disabled to visit Memorial chorten

chortenA ramp is being constructed to allow mobility-disabled people to circumambulate the Memorial chorten

YIDDD/BCMD: A ramp will be constructed to allow mobility-disabled individuals to circumambulate the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Memorial chorten.

Conceived by a youth, Dechen Rabgyel who is the leader of the social justice committee, the ramp will constructed from the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) to the chorten to allow wheelchair users and individuals using crutches to be able to easily and safely access the chorten for their spiritual needs.

The Youth Initiative for Debate, Deliberation and Development (YIDDD) organised the project, while the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) is providing support.

BCMD assistant program officer, Phuntsho Namgay, said that the main motive of the project was to give the disabled minority of the country due respect, and also to sensitise the country on the need for places like hospitals, shopping malls, vegetable markets and recreational areas to be made accessible to people with special needs.

Bhutan does not have a concrete policy that safeguards the rights of disabled individuals currently. “Although we had disabled people all the way, we’ve never given them the respect they deserve. This is a very good project to address this issue. We’ve drafted a policy to enable equal rights and freedom for disabled individuals,” Disabled Person’s Association of Bhutan (DPAB) executive director, Sonam , said.  DPAB is also a supporter of the project.

“It’s high time that government had a policy or act to ensure accessibility in public buildings, and implementers like engineers and architects make the environment conducive and accessible for disabled people,” JDWNRH physiotherapist Dr Sangha said.  He added that the project must meet international standards to be efficient for the users.

However, there are concerns about the Memorial chorten getting congested, especially during auspicious days, given that wheelchairs occupy larger spaces.

“Those using wheelchairs must be allocated a particular time to use the ramp, so that they don’t congest the traffic, otherwise it shouldn’t be a problem, because they won’t take much time circumambulating the chorten,” lam Namgay, who manages activities within the chorten, said.

The project is still in its initial stage.

The Thimphu City corporation will supervise the construction of the ramp.

The project is estimated to cost around Nu 100,000.

The Draktsho Vocational Training Institute is also supporting the project.

By Kipchu

Tashi Air eyes Myanmar-Singapore route

Aviation: Private airline Tashi Air has requested the department of civil aviation (DCA) to obtain approval for a route connecting Bhutan to Singapore, via Myanmar.

Tashi Air CEO, Phala Dorji, said that, once the necessary approvals are acquired, the airline would study the economic viability of the route to determine how frequently it would fly to Singapore.  He said that it was hoped the Tashi Air could begin flying to Singapore within this year.

The national airliner Drukair currently flies once a week to Singapore, via Kolkata.

Drukair also has the rights to fly to Singapore via Dhaka, however this route is not used.

Bhutan currently does not have fifth freedom rights between Myanmar and Singapore.  Fifth freedom rights grants an airline to pick up or drop off passengers in a second foreign country (in this case, Myanmar) while flying between the home country and a foreign country (Singapore).

While Bhutan has fifth freedom rights between Myanmar and Thailand for two flights a week, it is not used.

Discussions have been initiated with Myanmar for additional fifth freedom rights to Singapore.

DCA director Wangdi Gyaltshen said that Myanmar has responded that it could not consider additional fifth freedom rights to Singapore, given the unused existing ones for Thailand.  He said that Myanmar has pointed out that a route to Singapore would be considered if Bhutan gives up its rights to Thailand.

The director added that discussions with the two airlines were underway to determine whether the existing rights should be given up to allow the Singapore route instead.  He said that a careful study was being undertaken to determine the most beneficial route for Bhutan.

Meanwhile, Phala Dorji said that, while Tashi Air was still operating in the red, as an organisation it was now fully established and had obtained all required human resources.

He said that it might be another two-three years before the airline could finally break even.

The private airline will be introducing a frequent flyer program and a mobile app next month.  Using the mobile app, users will be able to get flight information, schedule, and check seat availability.  Users will also be able to book their flights using the mobile app.


By Gyalsten K Dorji

BAFRA officials dispose seized goods

unnamed-1Officials dump seized goods in a biological pit in Wangdue

Food: Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials in Wangdue, on January 16, seized and disposed off grocery items and beverages that had well passed the best before date.

Officials said the expired items were seized during a routine inspection conducted in Bajo, Chazam, Phobjikha, Gangtey, Nobding, and Tikizampa and Chuzomsa areas.

The disposed grocery item includes biscuits, spices, pickles, noodles and other processed dry products. Cold drinks like Fanta, coca-cola and sprite were mostly found in hotels, restaurants and bars. The shelf life of such drinks are shorter,  ranging from two and half to three months, compared with other grocery products, officials said.

BAFRA officials said both shop owners and consumers were also advised to check the manufacturing date when purchasing goods from the shops. “We also highlighted the shopkeepers about the need of proper arrangement of the items to avoid loss from goods going out of date,” officials said.

As of today, officials said they have only seized and disposed the good items, and didn’t levy fines. “Once people are made fully aware of BAFRA rules and requirements, we are going to fine them. Grocery items are fined  10 times the market value as per the “Food Act of Bhutan 2005 and Food Rules and Regulation of Bhutan 2007”.  Meat products are fined double the market price if found rotten and unfit for human consumption.

Meanwhile, BAFRA officials said the volume of date expired items have been reduced drastically unlike in the past. This they said was an indication of people becoming aware of the rules and regulations.

By Dawa Gyelmo,  Wangdue

E-cars – Nobel laureate seeks action now

unnamed-2Melting: Receding glaciers in Lunana is attributed to climate change (file photo)

here’s not much time, feels (Dr) Pachauri, to make the moves needed to counter climate change

Conference: While the government’s electric car initiative did receive flak when it was revealed, top climate change scientist and Nobel laureate, (Dr) Rajendra K Pachauri, welcomes it.

The chairperson of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was, in a recorded statement, addressing scientists and policy makers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka at the three-day conference ‘Global climate Change: Reducing Risk and Increasing Resilience’ in Thimphu yesterday.

“If you were to move the entire transport sector to the use of electricity, you’re moving from fossil fuel to a renewable energy over which you have complete control and which doesn’t have to be imported,” he said. “These are some of the options we’d have to adopt and the pathways on which we’ll have to move rather rapidly.”

Tackling climate change, he said, was in the interest of meeting the country’s aspiration of gross national happiness.

“Because clearly, more consumption and production with the destruction of the environment, disruption of the climate system isn’t what would give human society happiness.”

He said the answer to address climate change issues lay in moving towards the train approach of adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“Of course, we’ll have to assess what these impacts are going to be and carry out a large scale move towards green house gas intensive technologies by which the world’s economy can move to a cleaner, greener future which would give us a sustainable form of economic development,” he said.

(Dr) Pachauri said that a substantial increase in the awareness by human society and therefore a willingness to take action as early as possible was what is needed at this stage to tackle the issue.

“That’s the only way by which we can reduce the risks of climate change and bring about a higher level of resilience,” he said.

He said adaptation and reducing emissions were two ways to tackle the issue.

Reducing emissions at the level that would be required was not going to be easy.  But, he said at this juncture, it was still within reach and the cost of doing so was not going to be prohibitive.

IPCC has estimated that if countries were to go along a stringent mitigation pathway to ensure that they reach zero or negative emission by the end of the century, the cost would be 0.06 percent reduction in Gross Domestic Product for total consumption annually. “Now this is not a high price to pay,” he said.

According to the expert, the mitigation carried with it a whole range of co-benefits, such as much higher energy security, such as moving vehicles in Bhutan to the use of electricity.

“So if you count all these, it’s entirely possible that the cost of reducing emission will naturally be negative,” he said.

If countries did not make haste and continue to lack in implementing adaptation measures and didn’t bring about rapid enough reduction in the emission of the greenhouse gases, then the cost of bringing about stabilisation of the climate would become difficult.

“The technology required to bring about an adequate reduction would perhaps be beyond our reach,” he said. “We may not be able to develop them on time and in a measure that would ensure a reduction that essentially would give us zero or negative emissions by the end of the century.”

To keep global temperature rise below two degrees by the end of the century, the IPCC has estimated that by the middle of the century, there should be about 40-70 percent reduction in emissions using the 2010 as the base.

“This would mean that we have to treble or quadruple our low carbon or zero carbon sources of energy supply.”

The IPCC reports that most of the global warming could be attributed to human actions, a certainty of 95 percent.

He said events of heavy precipitation in the mountainous regions were a concern.

Heat waves are becoming more frequent, and those heat waves that occur once in 20 years could occur once in every two years.

The impacts of climate change are progressively serious on forest, biodiversity and agriculture.  Wheat, rice and maize are three crops that are likely to be affected adversely if global warming continues.

The conference is the first National Environment Commission is hosting, with Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, in commemoration of the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

By Tshering Palden