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We are failing our children

Our teachers are not living up to the expectations of the society.

Every other day, there are reports of some teachers being involved in acts that we warn our children from indulging in. Isolated as they may be, their acts and deeds are enough to mar the exemplary work thousands of other teachers are doing everyday to educate our children.

The conduct of six teachers of Nganglam Central School in Pemagatshel who manipulated documents to admit their children in school is deplorable. The principal may not be directly involved, but as the head of the school he is as guilty by association.

By manipulating the admission documents for eight under-aged children, the seven teachers deprived 29 children from poor families to get admitted in school on time. These children lost a year of schooling and no actions taken can amend this loss.

But the actions meted out to the teachers including an assistant IT instructor and the sports coach is not commensurate to the yearlong learning opportunities they deprived the 29 children of. Reprimanding them for tampering of documents and withholding their training, both in and ex-country for a year appears to be a feeble attempt from the education ministry and the dzongkhag administration to show that some action was taken. Training opportunities for teachers are already far and between and reprimanding them is not enough for the offences committed.

Such leniency towards abuse of function, power and tampering of documents by manipulating health and census records, alleged forging of minutes of a meeting supposedly held on a Sunday and elements of conflict of interest is intolerable. It will not deter others from committing such offences in the future or help in holding them accountable.

Abuse of functions tops the list of corruption complaints filed with the ACC. But its rampant practice should not deter institutions like the education ministry and the Pemagatshel dzongkhag administration from tolerating the norm. Among the ministries, the highest number of corruption complaints the ACC received last year, 15, was against the education ministry according to its annual report. We commend the parents who complained through eKaaSel and the prime minister’s office for investigating the issue.

A 2012 ACC study on integrity and value education in schools found that teachers are partial toward students whose parent are rich and hold important positions. This depiction of favouritism and nepotism, which is prevalent in our society, is apparent in this recent case. Of the eight under-aged students, six are children of the teachers while the other two are children of a drugkhag official and a local businessman.

With 98.8 percent enrolment rate as of last year, Bhutan has made impressive strides in increasing primary enrolment rates. The remaining 1.2 percent children between 6-12 year olds who are not in school, according to the education ministry may include those in remote reach areas, children of nomadic communities, children with learning disabilities and those who have dropped out.

The ministry might want to add children who are left out by the admission committee to the list of reasons for children being out of school.

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