Our King has spoken

The People's King

Our elders believe that the words of our kings are droplets of gold. They believe that to carry out a king’s command is to undertake a task that’s heavier than a mountain. They also believe that to ignore a king’s command is to waste an opportunity more precious than gold.

Our kings do not say much. But when they do, what they say is important; what they say has far-reaching implications. And what they say is gratefully received, studied and carried out with a sense of great urgency.

Our King has spoken. In his Royal Address, on 17th December, our National Day, His Majesty shared his “deepest concerns” with the nation: that we must strengthen the foundations of our democracy; that we must make education more relevant so that it leads to jobs; that we must step up the fight against corruption; and that we must build a self-reliant, sustainable economy.

Our King has spoken. Now will we, like our elders, accept his command as droplets of gold? Will we, like our elders, receive, study and execute his command, even though they weigh heavier than our mighty mountains? Or will we, unlike our elders, ignore and waste that what’s more precious than gold?

Students’ Digest

Good to digest

Finally! A magazine just for students! And about time too. After all, one in every three Bhutanese is a student. The magazine, Students’ Digest, a quarterly, was launched last month, befittingly on Children’s Day, the 11th of November.

Students’ Digest is a rich compilation of educational material for students, and their teachers and parents. From news, views and interviews to scholarships, jobs and study tips the magazine offers knowledge, entertainment and counsel to its readers.

I wish the Students’ Digest team well. Their success will be our students’ success.

Section 10.2

The Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations 2006, commonly known as BCSR 2006, consists of 21 Chapters spread over 223 pages. It can be downloaded from the RCSC website.

Read it.

Now identify the most important provision in the document.

Civil servants would probably point to Section 10.2 on page 200 of the BCSR. Section 10.2 states that: “Only one penalty shall be imposed in each case.”

Why should Section 10.2 be so important? Because it protects civil servants from undue and excessive administrative authority.

When civil servants transgress – when they are undisciplined, when they do not perform, when they abuse their power and authority, when they are corrupt – they must be punished. But having been punished for an offense, they must know that that same offense will not be repeatedly investigated and that they will not be subject to additional penalties.

Cases against civil servants must be thoroughly investigated and administrative penalties fully imposed. But after that, the matter should be firmly closed. Otherwise, we risk exposing civil servants to all types of unpredictable and arbitrary harassment.

That’s why Section 10.2 of the BCSR is important. And that’s why Section 10.2 must be protected.

So I called on the Chairman of the Royal Civil Service Commission yesterday. And I requested the Commission to reconsider their decision to terminate (without retirement benefits) the services of seven education officials. All seven of them had already been served multiple administrative penalties, so the decision to terminate them would amount to a blatant violation of Section 10.2.

In Parliament, I had asked the Education Minister:How has the Ministry of Education sought to redress this possible injustice against the Education personnel?”

And he had replied: “the case is not yet over”.

But it has already been about nine months since the seven officials lost their jobs. And lost their retirement benefits. In spite of Section 10.2

Celebrating teachers and workers

Very important people

Very important people

Teachers and blue-collared workers throughout our country must be celebrating. Good. They have reason to rejoice.

Yesterday, during the National Day celebrations in Changlimithang Stadium, His Majesty the King paid special tribute to our teachers and blue-collared workers. And, in recognition of their important services to the tsa wa sum, His Majesty awarded the National Order of Merit to 16 educationists and blue-collared workers. One craftsman, Jinzop Karma, Bhutan’s foremost traditional sculptor, was bestowed the Druk Thugsay.

My heartiest congratulations to them.

And, to the countless teachers and blue-collared workers all across our Kingdom, I say: thank you.

Photo credit: BBS

Educating officials

Yesterday, during the NA’s Question Hour, I asked the Education Minister:

On 30th June 2009, the RCSC terminated (without benefits) seven civil servants from the Ministry of Education for embezzling Government funds. However, the RCSC and Ministry of Education had already taken various disciplinary actions against each of them. So the termination of these education officials may be in contravention to Chapter 19, Section 10.2 of the RCSC’s BCSR which states that “Only one penalty shall be imposed in each case.”

How has the Ministry of Education sought to redress this possible injustice against the Education personnel?

All seven officials had tampered with accounts to include TA/DA for people who had not participated in the workshops that they had conducted. The officials claimed that the accounts had been manipulated to cover workshop expenses.

What they did is wrong. They must accept responsibility for their actions. And they must be fully accountable.

Four of the seven officials had manipulated less than Nu 30,000 each. The others between Nu 100,000 and Nu 200,000. All of them were terminated. And without benefits. The benefits (government contribution to the Provident Fund, and gratuity) for some of them total Nu 12,50,000.

If the penalty for misusing Nu 29,000 is termination from service and loss of more than Nu 13,00,000 (as in one official’s case), so be it. That the penalty appears excessively high is no excuse to argue in favour of officials who misuse public money. The law must be obeyed.

But that’s where it gets complicated. The law (in this case the BCSR) clearly states that only one penalty can be imposed on each case. And in this case, all seven officials received multiple penalties.

The first penalty was imposed by the RCSC and Ministry of Education jointly. They had decided to withhold the promotions, increments and further training of the officials involved. These penalties were applied because the RCSC and Ministry of Education had decided not to take the officials to court.

But after applying the penalties, the officials were taken to court. The District Court ruled in favour of the officials. But, the High Court ruled against them. And charged them with sentences for misdemeanor. Now the BCSR states that civil servants charged with misdemeanor will be terminated (without benefits) from service. So the seven officials were terminated – they lost their jobs and their benefits.

But, in terminating them, the RCSC violated BCSR, which prohibits the application of more than one penalty per offence.

Hence my question.

The Education Minister’s response was encouraging. He reported that he was pursuing the matter, and that the “case is not yet over.”

Happy Teachers’ Day

Gakiling has only one school, a community primary school. It is in Rangtse, a small, impoverished village located four walking days from the nearest motor road in Haa. Tshering Dorji is its principal.

In 2006, after teaching for about three years in remote schools in Samtse, Lopen Tshering volunteered to go to Rangtse to establish a community primary school. There he met enough children to start the school. And he saw a community eager to build their school. So together, they – farmers, children, and teacher – erected a two-room hut that would become Rangtse’s first classrooms.

Early the following year, 38 children showed up for school. And Lopen Tshering got to work. He taught his students to read and to write, to sing and dance, and to work and play. His first students included a paraplegic and several toddlers in the “pre-school” section. By the end of that year, the school had treated the public of Rangtse to their first ever cultural show. But that was not all: the principal took the show on the road, where his talented students entertained admiring crowds in Sombaykha and in Dorokha.

Today Rangtse CPS has 97 students studying in classes PP through III, many coming from villages that have never had a child attend school. The school now has four teachers including the principal and his wife. And they have a few more huts, some of which are still being built. But that is still not enough. So all the teachers – the principal, his wife, and the two others – live in one room. That room is furnished with three beds and one cupboard.

Lopen Tshering has shown how much can be achieved with so little. He’s built a school from scratch. A school that gives hope. And that provides the only opportunity to escape poverty.

So today, on Teachers’ Day, I want to recognize the hard work that Lopen Tshering Dorji and his teacher friends have put into building Rangtse CPS. And I want to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices that they have made. And thank them.

I wish Lopen Tshering and his teacher-colleagues throughout our country: A very happy teachers’ day.

A repeating problem

Jigme Dorji has a problem – he passed Class 12, but wants to repeat Class 12!

He secured an overall result of 65% percent, including a high of 75% in geography, which, I think, is quite good. But he feels that it’s not good enough and insists that he needs to repeat, and get better results, in order to do well in life.

To do well in life means to get a job in the civil service or, at the very least, a big corporation. For that he needs a bachelor’s degree.

65% didn’t get him admitted to Sherubtse College, Gedu College of Business Studies or any of the other free government colleges.

Actually he did qualify for the colleges of education in Paro and Samtse. But he’s not interested. He’s convinced that a B.Ed degree is good only for teaching. And that teaching would confine him to schools and not allow him to progress.

He could, like the thousands of Bhutanese students every year, study privately in India. But his parents are simple farmers in Trashigang. And they have 4 other children to look after. So Jigme can’t afford to even think about studying privately.

He could have enrolled in the RIHS or any of the VTIs. But they are for Class X students. And, he feels, that having completed 12, it would seem like a big setback. Besides he wants to progress and not stay as a technician all his life.

So the only option for him, as he sees it, is to repeat Class 12, study even harder, get better results, and qualify for Sherubtse College. I think this option is difficult, risky and wasteful.

Jigme is not alone. Every year too many students repeat Class 12 although they have passed, some, like Jigme, with quite good results. What a big waste.

What should the government do?

First, it should improve counseling services. This would allow students to plan their future based on their abilities and a better understanding of the careers that are available.

Second, it should develop multiple pathways to and within work. This would make it possible for a person who starts work a technician to become an engineer. Or a nurse to become a doctor. Or a teacher to become a manager. The idea is to keep all doors open by creating bridges and ladders.

If this issue not addressed in earnest, expect more wastage and frustration. Expect more problems.