While ed­u­ca­tion is free, it is not free of risks to our girls

Bhutan Times - - Home - Lhakpa Tsh­er­ing

The gov­ern­ment con­cerns for the teenage girls and high­lighted few of the ini­tia­tives to en­able and em­power the teenage daughters to be happy and suc­cess­ful.

The gov­ern­ment is car­ry­ing out ac­tiv­i­ties for the spe­cial needs of women in gen­eral and girls in par­tic­u­lar. Un­der the lead­er­ship of His Majesty The Queen Mother Ashi Sangey Cho­den Wangchuck , RE­NEW (Re­spect, Ed­u­cate, Nur­ture, and Em­power Women) has right­fully earned the re­spect and af­fec­tion of the Bhutanese so­ci­ety as the cham­pion for the cause of women, “RE­NEW has changed mind­sets. Ed­u­cate us on the dig­nity wom­an­hood. Taught us need to re­spect women. Shone the light to ‘women in trou­ble’ when all else dark­ened. In­spired us to build a good so­ci­ety where men and women can do bet­ter and greater to­gether,” Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Norbu Wangchuk said at the world pop­u­la­tion day on 11th June.

The min­is­ter also said that chil­dren, es­pe­cially girls have been al­ways been at the heart of the Bhutanese. They have tra­di­tion­ally been the source of Hap­pi­ness how­ever, as a so­ci­ety it is also rec­og­nized how vul­ner­a­ble the daughters can be, “In the past we kept our daughters home-safe from any el­e­ments that risked their be­ing. Even away from schools,” he said.

About a pop­u­la­tion of 700,000 peo­ple in the coun­try, out of which 50% are women. Cur­rently 1, 72,000 stu­dents study­ing in many schools spread through­out the coun­try, out of which 50% of the stu­dents are girls.

The Min­is­ter re­ported, “I am happy to re­port that 99% of our chil­dren are en­rolled in the pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme. This in­di­cates that al­most all our chil­dren in­clud­ing girls are in the schools. More­over, our sta­tis­tics show that our girls are do­ing equally well com­pared to their male coun­ter­parts all through­out the school sys­tem. He fur­ther added, “These are mat­ters to be proud of, there are al­ways the con­cerns to be mindful of when it comes to our teenage girls. Their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties can eas­ily be ex­ploited, abused and mis­guided upon.”

The gov­ern­ment has es­ti­mated a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of teenage girls live with dis­tant rel­a­tives or in rented apart­ments es­pe­cially promi­nent in ur­ban ar­eas such as Thim­phu and Phuentshol­ing, “With­out the ad­e­quate pas­toral care and su­per­vi­sion, these girls are vul­ner­a­ble to ex­ploita­tion, sub­stance abuse, teenage preg­nancy and sub­se­quently drop­ping out of school,” the min­is­ter added.

The Min­is­ter also shared the dif­fi­cul­ties of the chil­dren while re­ceiv­ing ed­u­ca­tion es­pe­cially girls. As per the ad­dress, there are about 10,000 chil­dren who walk more than 2 hours to school and back home, “These chil­dren half of whom are girls spend con­sid­er­able time trav­el­ling time trav­el­ling be­tween school and home. The ex­haus­tion of walk­ing ev­ery­day through rough ter­rain and harsh con­di­tions and the lesser time spent study­ing con­se­quently risks not get­ting qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and drop­ping out of school,” he added.

The gov­ern­ment has es­tab­lished the cen­tral schools where stu­dents are kept as board­ing un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the school where es­pe­cially girls do not have to put them­selves at the risk while re­ceiv­ing their ed­u­ca­tion. The gov­ern­ment plans to have al­most all the stu­dents in the board­ing schools through cen­tral schools. There will be 60 cen­tral schools in the 11th plan and 60 in the 12th plan to­tal­ing of 120 cen­tral schools through­out the coun­try, “Cen­tral Schools would ben­e­fit es­pe­cially our girl stu­dents who are more vul­ner­a­ble than the boys,” the min­is­ter said.

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion has re­scinded a pol­icy that pro­hib­ited ur­ban schools to have board­ing fa­cil­i­ties by the next aca­demic year. Ly­onpo said, “We have al­lowed schools in ur­ban ar­eas es­pe­cially pri­vate schools to have board­ing and hos­tel fa­cil­i­ties if they so wish. We hope our teenage girls would ben­e­fit by keep­ing them­selves from harm’s way un­der the su­per­vi­sion of proper board­ing and hos­tel fa­cil­i­ties.”

The health of the teenage girls as­sumes greater im­por­tance not only to en­hance aca­demic per­for­mance but also the will soon be­come moth­ers. The gov­ern­ment has de­vel­oped Bhutan Di­etary Guide­lines to pro­vide food menu to en­cour­age qual­ity food on daily ba­sis in the schools and also pro­vided day meals to chil­dren who have to walk long dis­tance from home to school, “Gov­ern­ment takes ex­tra care in en­sur­ing that our chil­dren get ad­e­quate nutri­tion and the re­quired nu­tri­ents,” Min­is­ter said.

Some of the mea­sures to sup­port the work­ing moth­ers are the in­sti­tu­tion of six-month ma­ter­nity leave and the es­tab­lish­ment of Early Child Care and De­vel­op­ment Cen­ters (ECCD). The gov­ern­ment is also en­cour­ag­ing the pri­vate sec­tor to sup­port their work­ing moth­ers sim­i­larly. Ly­onpo said that the dou­ble and triple bur­den im­posed on our women, hav­ing to take care of chil­dren, home and the job, women are con­strained from build­ing a ca­reer of their choice un­like her male coun­ter­part.

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