Life in Ngangla

What children see

Four special guests are in Thimphu. They are Sonam Zangmo, Sangay Dorji, Thinely Wangmo and Sangay Wangchuk. The guests, all of whom are more or less 12 years old, are in Class VI in Kagtong Community Primary School in Ngangla gewog, Zhemgang.

Kagtong is a village in lower Kheng. The village does not have electricity and is not connected by motor road. The nearest road-head to Kagtong is in Panbang, from where it takes a day to reach the remote village.

25 students from Kagtong CPS recently took part in a two-week photography course. During the training they recorded life in their village as they see it.

A selection of their photographs are on exhibition at the Allaya Gallery at the Tarayana Centre in Chubachu. The exhibition, entitled “Life in Ngangla through the Children’s Eyes” runs through the 18th of May and is open from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm every day.

Helvetas, who sponsored the unique photography course, bought Sonam, Thinley and the two Sangay’s to Thimphu to show off their work, their school and their community.

If you are in Thimphu, you should go to meet them at the Allaya Gallery. You’ll be impressed. I’ve uploaded some photographs, along with the descriptions provided by the student photographers themselves.

Here’s Sangay Dorji introducing Ngangla, and inviting you to their exhibition …


Monitoring drayangs


The public of Paro informed the National Assembly that drayangs and discotheques cause societal problems and upset the social harmony. So they suggested that strict licensing and operating rules should be developed in order to reduce the numbers of such entertainment centres.

When discussing this matter yesterday, MPs, focusing mainly on drayangs, complained that these businesses lured young women from the villages, underpaid them and subject them to sexual harassment. So a couple of MPs pushed for an outright ban on drayangs.

But, thankfully, the majority favoured developing clearer policies and regulations, and leaving licensing and enforcement to local governments.

Some of us may not approve of drayangs. But we must remember that they are legal businesses. And remember that Article 7 Section 10 of the Constitution bestows the following fundamental right:

A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to practice any lawful trade, profession or vocation.

Incidentally, if drayangs really bother us, we should take note that cable TV operators, throughout the country, show almost nothing else on their respective channels but young students, especially girls, dancing on stage. These students are actually just participating in their school concerts. But recordings of their dance routines are broadcast almost continuously by cable TV operators.

The question is: Why?

And, more importantly, why do school concerts, throughout our country, feature so much rigsar dancing?

Photo credit: BBS

Educating the centre

rangtse-schoolGakiling has 13 villages. Some of the poorest parts of our country can be found in this cluster of villages that lie along the remote parts of upstream Amochu. Together, the 13 villages have just one school – Rangtse Community School, which opened two years ago after Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck visited the area.

None of the villages is connected by car road. Most don’t even have mule tracks. So the school in Rangtse is not accessible to children living in other villages. And the children can’t live in Rangtse, because the school does not have boarding facilities.

Naturally, the people of Gakiling are anxious. They want schools. They need schools. But they have no idea if their needs will be met during the 10th Plan. They have no idea because no one consulted them.

Education used to be decentralized. And local governments could decide, within the overall education policies and guidelines, where to build their schools. But this is no longer the case. The entire education system will be planned and executed by the centre. That must be the case, because the centre – the education ministry, in this case – has been allocated all the money. And local governments have been given nothing, not even one ngultrum, to develop education in their communities.

During the 10th Plan the Education Ministry will receive Nu 9.5 billion for capital investments alone. Compare this to what has been earmarked for the 20 dzongkhags – Nu 7.2 billion for all their activities; or what has been given to the 205 gewogs combined – just Nu 4.8 billion.

This makes the education ministry very powerful. But its power comes at a high price: decentralization is suspended, and local government is suppressed. That’s not good. Local governments, after all, understand the aspirations of their people better than any expert in Thimphu. And they have much more at stake.

For now, the people of Gakiling are at the mercy of the centre. So are the people of Sombaykha, another gewog with no road and only one proper school. Both, Gakiling and Sombaykha are in my constituency.

The end of school

Galek, my daughter, age 9, class 4, finished her final exams yesterday.

Today, her last day at school, is significant.

It’s significant for me because she’s completed yet another year at school – a reminder that she’s growing up; that time flies.

It’s significant for Galek too – today marks the completion of her first academic year since the introduction of democracy in Bhutan; the completion of one of the five academic years that we’ve given the DPT government to improve our education system.

So I’ve been thinking: what has the DPT government done so far to improve the quality of education? And how have their policies made education more meaningful for our students? I’ll have to think, and think hard, about this for a while.

Meanwhile, Galek will get her results today.

Lyonpo Thakur, you’ve completed your first academic year as education minister. How would your report card look?