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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 57 min 10 sec ago

Bhutan presents herself as hope

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 16:05

Early this week, in the lead up to the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, the U.S. Bhutan made bold and urged the members of the world body to lend their ears to some encouraging stories from the Himalayan kingdom amid far too many pictures of doom and gloom.

The world economic forum’s sustainable development impact and climate action summits were an opportunity for Bhutan to remind the countries around the world that with political will and concerted efforts, achieving the sustainable development goals is within the reach of every nation on earth.

For Bhutan, coming to grief is not an option. Failure cannot be seen even as a remote possibility because we have already set the efforts in train by integrating all the relevant—16 of the 17 sustainable development goals—into the 12th Plan. And, more than ever, relevant stakeholders—private sector and civil society organisations—are being involved to make assurance doubly sure that no one is left behind.

The progress, all in all, has been encouraging. The Bhutan story so was received by the world leaders in an atmosphere of solemn contemplation, as a story of hope at a time when the world is gripped by “a general feeling of pessimism and despondency”.

The world today, among others, is challenged by war and deadly conflicts, climate crisis and widespread gender-based violence and inequality. 

It is in this backdrop that the UN Chief António Guterres announced the coming to life of the 2030 agenda and warned the nations that the world may be set to miss the deadline.

Globally, going by the current pace of development, there could be almost 500 million people in extreme poverty by the close of the target year 2030. The call to step up the efforts could not be louder and more urgent.

While the temptation to give ourselves a pat on the back may be irresistible, this could be the most opportune time for us to look inside and lay the challenges to heart. It has not been easy for us to get to where we are today and we are also deeply aware of the challenges that lie ahead.

Our five-year plans, which are guided by gross national happiness, have long laid importance on and prioritised the United Nations’ 2015-2030 agenda, but they, in and by themselves, will not solve the problems facing us today or prepare  us for the future that will bring more complex challenges at our doors.

We may well be on track to achieving the global agenda 2015-2030, but complacency remains our greatest challenge. Because Bhutan stands a good chance to succeed, we must make every effort to fight shy of coming to a pretty pass.

Health minister outlines major reforms in the health sector

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 16:04

Health minister Dechen Wangmo underscored the reforms needed in the health sector with a focus on ‘people centric quality and comprehensive health services.’

Speaking at the biennial health conference last week in Tsirang, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo detailed how the health ministry could realise the vision of a nation with the best health.

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Solution found to the 200 statues

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 16:03

The 200 or so statues that were piled up in an archery range at Babesa are taken care of.

Thromde officials said they have taken the statues, left at Babesa after the Vishwakarma puja, to a place in Chamgang under Dagala gewog in Thimphu. The department of forest and park service on the eve of the Vishwakarma puja restricted immersing the statues in the rivers for environment reasons.

“When we consulted a Hindu pandit, he confirmed that it is acceptable to leave the statues in an open space,” an official from the thromde said.

Other waste collected from rituals was discarded at Memelakha landfill, according to the official.

Lhuentse flags off activities to receive tourists

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 16:02

A Dungkar heritage festival, development of Ney tsachhu, river rafting and hot stone bath along the Kurichhu, improvising trekking routes are some of the tourism products Lhuentse dzongkhag has identified for promoting tourism in the dzongkhag.

Lhuentse is one of the five focused dzongkhags for tourism flagship project in the country.

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HC upholds lower court judgment on Zangdopelri case

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 16:01

The High Court’s bench III upheld the judgment of Samdrupjongkhar dzongkhag court and ordered a Samdrupjongkhar resident, Thinley Dorji, to surrender  44,072sq.ft land along with a Zangdopelri and two double-storied buildings to the Samdrupjongkhar thromde.

The September 25 judgment also ordered thromde to compensate Thinley Dorji with Nu 27.9M for the properties.

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Celebrating 30th Bhutan-Thailand diplomatic relations

Fri, 09/27/2019 - 16:00

The Royal Thai Embassy in Dhaka, in collaboration with Royal Textile Academy (RTA) of Bhutan, observed the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bhutan and Thailand yesterday.

Arunrung Phothong Humphreys, Ambassador-designate of Thailand to Bhutan and Health Minister Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo

RTA’s head of conservation, Karma Deki Tshering, and Thammasat University in Thailand’s dean of faculty of fine and applied arts, Anucha Thirakanont (PhD), gave lectures on traditional textile conservation at Norkhil Boutique Hotel and  Spa in Thimphu yesterday morning.

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Lyonchhen calls on all countries to submit enhanced climate pledge

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:09

Patients, who don’t listen to doctors’ advice are certain to come back with an incurable diseases.

Speaking at the Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering used this analogy to convey global leaders that if concrete actions are not taken now, the world will be inflicted with incurable diseases.

Speaking on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDC), Lyonchhen Dr Lotay TShering said LDCs are ready to come forward with enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and long-term low carbon climate resilient strategies by 2020. But this, he said cannot be achieved without the support of international community.

“LDCs can do it. My country, Bhutan, is a good example,” he said.

Leaders of many countries, including the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has pledged to cut down coal power, promote renewables and clean transport. More than 77 countries have committed carbon neutrality by next two decades and bend the emission curve to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.

However, the Prime Minister said that 1.5 degrees is not good anymore. “We call on all countries to submit enhanced climate pledge and long-term low greenhouse emission development strategies,” he said.

Lyonchhen said that Bhutan’s philosophy of gross national happiness, which emphasises on development with values, has helped the country to move quite early on climate actions.

“Today, we are carbon negative.” He also boasted of the country 72 percent forest coverage and legally protected biological corridor.

“As I stand here, images of my home, Bhutan comes to my mind. Of lush green forests, snow-capped mountains and clean rivers. But I am also worried. How long will this last? Will our children relish this natural wealth, as much as we did,” he said.

Bhutan and the LDC have already embarked on a shared 2050 vision for a climate resilient future to deliver climate-resilient pathways by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

This will be implemented through LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR), which aim to develop an over-arching vision for adapting towards a climate resilient future by 2050 in line with LDC needs and priorities. This will require USD 450M over next 10 years. “We ask the international community to join us. We ask you to invest in our institutions, capabilities, net-zero economies and technology.”


Youth calls strike

Prior to the climate summit, close to 100,000 youth from across the world went on a climate strike in New York, demanding urgent actions on climate change from the global leaders and businesses.

“This is not a climate talk summit.  We have had enough talk. This is not a climate negotiation summit because we don’t negotiate with nature. This is a climate action summit,” the UN secretary General Antonio Guterres said in his opening remarks.

However, observers said that the summit is nothing more than another talk. Commitments, some said are easy to make but there is no accountability and immediate action.

The Secretary General said young people are here with solutions, insisting on accountability, demanding urgent action. “They are right. My generation has failed in its responsibility to protect our planet.  That must change.”

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist shamed leaders of being selfish and not caring for the future generation. In 2008, she took time off school to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament, holding up a sign calling for stronger climate action.

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dream, my childhood with your empty words,” she said. “You say you hear us and you understand the urgency… if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil and that I refuse to believe.”

A college student in New York, Maria Martenez said youth have to intervene when adults act like children.

“We are asking for them to do something rite now,” Maria said.  “I am disappointed that US has stepped back from that role of leadership but I’m confident that youth recognise that its not just climate issue but political, human rights, safety and that really affects everyone,” she added.


Bhutan’s message

While Bhutan enjoys a carbon negative status, Bhutan should not set back from addressing climate change issue, according to a youth envoy from Bhutan, Ugyen Tshomo.

She is the winner of one of the 100 green tickets the UN issued to youth across the world, many of whom, including Greta has travelled to New York with minimum carbon footprint.

“Bhutan is bearing the cost of maintaining this carbon negative status by losing our agricultural land areas for forest coverage and prospective economic development.  Yet we are suffering from the consequences of climate change issues from the global emission contributions,” she said.

“As a recipient of green ticket, I am more mindful of my actions than before,” she said adding that she took two less flights.

After returning home, she said she aspires to work on the local sources of air pollution and create educational and public advocacy programs on climate change.

“I identify myself as a planeteer. I am inspired by meeting real life planeteers like Secretary General Luis Alfonso de Alba and young climate activist Greta Thunberg for their unwavering dedications and voices to reach wider audiences towards climate actions.” She said.

Bhutan, she said is blessed with visionary leaders, who champion the environmental cause.  “The source of inspiration to take climate action starts from my own home country,” she said.

On the climate strikes, she said it really depends on the country. “For countries where the leaders are deviated from taking climate actions, I feel the pertinent to address climate issues.”

But as youth envoys, she said actions should not be to calling for protests as the only method to take climate action.

Tshering Dorji  | New York

Research team developing Bhutanese sign language

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:08

Bhutanese Sign Language (BSL) is the main medium of communication for deaf students at the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf in Paro. The school has 106 students.

BSL is the first language for the students and the medium of instruction for the teachers. However, without a proper BSL, it has not been an easy journey for both the students and the teachers.

The students today learn three languages, which are BSL, English and Dzongkha. The students are given a basic sign language class for five months before their formal education.

But there is good news.

A research team comprising two teachers, a consultant and eight deaf adults at the Wangsel institute have been working for the last three years to develop a standard BSL and document sign language.

Inside a room filled with cameras, a green board, lightings, and tripods, the team works rigorously every day trying to document the existing BSL and then develop the BSL for deaf students.

Institute’s teacher, Sushila Gurung, who is also one of the research members, said that when the institute was first established in 2003, the institute managed to collect 200 signs, which was made by a few deaf adults to start the academic.

“Sign language is a visual language where we can document it only on the video format, which is time-consuming,” she said. “Although we’re working hard, it has been difficult because there are no documents available for research and some of the sign languages have changed over the years, which makes it more difficult.”

As of now, the team has developed about 50 sign language, which took almost six months to produce. Sushila said that the team managed to take lists of sign language available and then consulted the deaf students to choose, verify the signs if it is still in use.

Sushila explained that standardising the sign language is a challenge, as deaf people are the only sources to collect the signs and some of the signs are not relevant anymore. “Before finalising the signs, we’ve to show it to the students in the hostel, then the students talk about it and then work on what signs they use. Then only we develop the signs accordingly.”

She added every word of the BSL has to be also analysed, pass through BSL structure and authenticated by BSL research team and officially documented, which takes a lot of time.

“There is also a possibility the signs could change over the times since it entirely depends on deaf people how they use or perceive the signs.”

The team members were trained by Dr Maliwan Tammasaeng based in Thailand, who first started the deaf institute.

Former president of World Federation of the Deaf, Collin James Allen, said that developing the BSL only indicates that Bhutan is now giving importance to sign language, which should as equal as a national language.

“We should put extra effort to ensure we’re recognised and that we’ve our own language,” Collin, who is also deaf himself, said. “We should create our own identity and be proud of our own identity, which is possible by having BSL.”

Institute’s principal, Dechen Tshering, said that without the BSL, the students often face challenges to acquire language with zero language foundation and having to study the curriculum developed for people who can hear.

“The strategies for deaf students has to be based on their needs. BSL instructors do not receive any kind of training to teach deaf students. The research team provides help,” he said.

He said today the staffing pattern has remained the same and no changes have been made in the area of curriculum and assessment where the staff need to follow the same academic curriculum designed for mainstream students.

“Lot of development has taken place in the BSL research and signing community after the research team was formed,” Dechen Tshering said. “The national curriculum at present does not fully cater to the needs of our deaf students.”

However, the principal said that the institute has proposed to the Royal Education Council for a modified curriculum and assessment for deaf students in 2017 where the work has been going on jointly. “The final curriculum framework is scheduled to be framed for class PP to VI including BSL as a new subject within 2019. We target to start from 2020 academic year.”

The institute accepts children below 18 years but only those who are deaf and students who have difficulty in hearing. The student should mandatorily undergo hearing test by an audiologist and recommend them to the institute.

Yangchen C Rinzin  | Paro

Bhutan could be the first country to achieve universal health coverage: PM

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:07

Bhutan will be the first country to achieve all the commitments relating to the universal health coverage agenda, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering announced at a high-level political forum on universal health coverage (UHC).

Themed “Universal health coverage: moving together to build a healthier world,” the high-level meeting brought together heads of state, political and health leaders, policy-makers to advocate for health for all.

The ultimate objective is to provide access to health care to all people without facing financial hardship. This entails garnering financial and political commitments from countries and sustain health investments.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering reiterated the government’s commitment when his party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa came to power on the back of health agenda, promising reforms in health sector.

“Our leaders insisted that there cannot be more sustainable way than investing in people’s health and education,” he said adding that the philosophy of Gross National Happiness amplified the country’s intent to ensure quality healthcare for all generations.

This, Lyonchhen said is embedded in the Constitution, which mandates free access to basic health care services. 

For services that are not available within, Lyonchhen said referral costs too, are fully borne by the government.

However, he said a poor nation like Bhutan is confronted with the challenge of sustaining the free healthcare services and ensuring its quality at the same time. Add to it the rugged geographical terrain, scattered settlements and inadequate public health infrastructure, Lyonchhen said it is difficult and expensive to provide services on time.

“Early onset of NCDs, climate induced diseases and disease importation from international mobility of people are issues we continue to grapple with,” he said.

The Prime Minister sought the support of international community and developing partners to realise UHC’s quality healthcare commitment and ensure free and equitable healthcare.

“With your support, I can assure you that Bhutan will be the first country to achieve all the commitments, and offer its people best of health services,” he said.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in his address congratulated member states on arriving at a consensus.

“The Political Declaration in front of us is the most comprehensive agreement ever reached on global health – a vision for Universal Health Coverage by 2030,” he said.

This is a significant achievement that will drive progress over the next decade on communicable diseases including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, while addressing non-communicable disease and antimicrobial resistance through robust and resilient primary healthcare systems.

While many countries are on the path towards achieving health for all by 2030, the secretary general said that others will need to accelerate their efforts so that no country, community or person is left behind.

“We urgently need to change the financing paradigm and step up the pace of investment in health for all.”

Tshering Dorji  | New York

Guideline to standardise issuance of medical certificate ready

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:06

Bhutan Medical and Health Council (BMHC) has drafted a guideline to avoid non-uniformity issue of medical certificates after the council noticed that different medical certificates were issued by different hospitals.

BMHC registrar general, Sonam Dorji, during the fifth biennial health conference in Tsirang last week, said a standard format was found necessary to avoid non-uniformity issue of medical certificates and to add value to the medical certificates.

He said that basic screening and test procedure had to be carried out when issuing a medical certificate. “It was found that medical certificate was issued as customary. Your friends bring the certificate and you sign it without any test.”

One of the repercussions that arise from here, he said, was that the Royal Civil Service Commission was questioning the medical professionals. “One month before the Bhutan Civil Service Examination, a person is medically fit. After one month, when his posting order comes, another medical certificate comes saying he or she is medically unfit.”

Officials with the national referral hospital in Thimphu said the hospital provides a medical certificate for various purposes including medical screening for general and driving purpose, for food handlers, industrial workforce, non-immigrant worker and when applying for a visa abroad.

For the general medical certificate, the official said that the hospital charged Nu 100, while for medical certificate for driving purpose the fee is Nu 300. “For the visa purpose, the cost differs depending on the country for which an applicant is applying for.”

The hospital charges a fee of about Nu 1,000 for medical screening when applying for a visa to Australia because it requires different medical tests to be conducted like X-ray, the official said.

Meanwhile, the fee for the medical certificate issued in the dzongkhags by health officials differs in amount. A majority of the dzongkhag hospitals issue a medical certificate for general employment, driving licence and food handling.

Some hospitals charge a fee of Nu 30 while some charges Nu 100 for all types of a medical certificate. Some hospitals don’t charge any fee.

A dzongkhag health official said that some people come for medical screening for visa purpose which they refer to the national referral hospital in Thimphu.

Dechen Tshomo

The discussions on rape

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:05

The rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Paro last week has left a lasting and predictable impact on our society.

There is shock and outrage. Some are even calling to amend laws, to bring back capital punishment.

All these are understandable. It is an inhuman act to rape a minor and then kill her. The outrage follows because this is not a rare incident. We have been discussing and pouring our emotions to similar incidents. There are speculations and blame game, there is a call for the most inhuman punishment for the most inhuman crime.

Police are still investing the case and it is not confirmed yet or at least the information is not confirmed to the public who is calling for the blood of the alleged rapist and murderer. All we know is that there is evidence of rape. The information that is shared on social media is arising out or outrage.

In the end we all want to know that justice has been served. Then our discussion can turn to if the suspect is met with deserved penalties. The case is not even solved and it is too early to be judged in open society, in today’s case social media.

But what the incident did do was make us all think. It is a reminder of an even more painful fact that this was not a solitary incident. Child abuse is an ongoing behaviour in what is supposed to be a compassionate Buddhist society. In the week of the Paro incident, there were two others reported. We are seeing an increasing case of rape and molestation.

When this is happening, a resourceful idea could be reflecting on the trends that we see than to react to individual incidents. And there are many to think about.

There is no study done, but many a rape case reported happens within the community, families and at homes. The highest risk of rape is when it happens in the environment where it is not expected. Such incidences should have made our people more aware.

Experts say that rape victims are the most silent, especially when it is children. They will suffer in silence unless they could trust someone in the family or community to share the ordeal and seek interventions.

Our teachers or health officials are not trained or paid to identify victims, but sometimes the conscience helps. It is said that victims of sexual assault experience delays in cognitive skills including the inability to concentrate or make irrational decisions. Teachers could identify children exhibiting such behaviours in school. The same can be observed by our health staff when victims seek help for other reasons.

With increasing cases of sexual assault and molestation, some interventions seems possible from people who deal with victims. In many cases, victims are repeatedly abused. We have seen in recent past how teachers identified and intervened to save children from abuse from peers, seniors or parents.

The safe environment for girls, even for minors, is shrinking. It is a serious concern. Rape is a crime. It can be prevented like many other crimes. Our discourse now should be on how can we do that.

Tackling waste through drop-in centres

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:04

More than 90 percent of Thimphu’s waste ends up in the landfill because of lack of efficient recycling and segregation methods and inadequate drop-in centres in the city.

And with population growth and rapid urbanisation, unsustainable management is expected to worsen.

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TashiCell’s market share increases

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:03

The market share of TashiCell has been increasing steadily over the years while that of B-Mobile has been decreasing.

Total TashiCell mobile subscribers increased from 98,095 in 2011 to 267,790 in June this year, according to the second quarterly statistical report released by the Ministry of Information and Communications.

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Shortage of health staff hampers service delivery

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:02

An 18-year-old student of Minjiwoong Central School took leave to visit Serthi basic health unit (BHU) on September 20.

The student, however, had to return without availing any service, as the BHU was closed that day since the health assistant (HA) went to visit the out-reach clinic (ORC) in Monmola in Serthi gewog.

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Picture story

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:01

At Gangla Karchung pass (5,176 metres above sea level): A team from Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) are in Lunana to investigate a micro hydroelectric project for the Department of Renewable Energy.  (Photo: Dorji Pavo Phuntshok)

Former Bumdeling gaydrung is the gup-elect

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 16:00

The former Bumdeling gewog gaydrung (clerk), Yeshi Dorji from Ngalimang- Phangteng is the Bumdeling gup-elect.

The 41-year-old secured 474 votes of the total 842 votes in the by-election yesterday. The other candidate, Leki of Pangkhar- Tarphel, secured 368 votes.

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Voters remind MPs of election pledges

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:26

MB Subba

Voters have reminded their Members to the Parliament of the government’s election pledges during the ongoing constituency visits.

Some MPs have returned to Thimphu from their constituency visits while others are still in their constituencies.

Some of the issues will be raised in the upcoming parliament session, according to MPs.

Common issues raised during the constituency visits were related to the government’s pledge to provide free wi-fi services and allowing day workers in the border dzongkhags.

MPs told Kuensel that lack of tourism programmes in some dzongkhags was one of the issues people raised during their constituency visits.

The government has promised to promote tourism for balanced regional development. Accordingly, the first session of the third parliament passed a resolution to open entry and exit points for tourists at Samdrupjongkhar, Gelephu, Samtse, Nanglam, and Panbang.

Ugyentse Yoeseltse MP Dinesh Kumar Pradhan said that people wanted more farm roads and highways maintained. He said that his constituents wanted the government to facilitate tourism development in the dzongkhag.

He said that the constituents also insisted on hiring day labourers from the border towns.

“They [constituents] are concerned about roads, tourism, human-wildlife conflicts and want conversion of wet land into dry land,” he said.

Athang Thedtsho MP Kinley Wangchuk said that people in his constituency raised issues related to land arising from the Punatshangchhu hydroelectric project. He also said that corporate social responsibility of the project had to be enhanced.

Drametse Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said most of the issues raised in his constituency were development-related. He said that local leaders wanted the common minimum infrastructure (CMI) funds for maintenance of farm roads.

“Local governments are concerned for not being able to use the CMI fund for farm road maintenance,” he said.

Ugyen Wangdi also said that local leaders raised issues about the removal of the gewog development grant (GDG) with the introduction of the gewog annual grant from the 12th Plan. Gewogs found GDG useful because they could plan and use it for activities that were not included in five-year Plan activities.

However, the government says the gewog annual grant gives gewogs the flexibility to reprioritise activities in line with the National Key Result Areas. It insists that the introduction of GAG does not stop gewogs from planning and implementing activities that are not included in the Plan.

Trashigang’s National Council member, Lhatu, said that his constituents questioned him on the government’s pledge to provide free wi-fi services.

“People are asking when is the government coming up with free wi-fi and what permanent measures are being considered to address human-wildlife conflict, as it has greatly caused huge rural urban migration.”

The government has said that the issue of wi-fi has been included in the Digital Drukyul flagship programme. According to the government, the Digital Drukyul programme will transform public service delivery and digitally empower citizens.

Besides constituency visits, various committees of National Council are making field visits as part of their committee works.

The Natural Resources and Environment Committee recently consulted officials from the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperative on the buy-back programme of government, which has been buying cardamom from farmers.

The committee will present its report to the House in the upcoming session. The objective of the buy-back programme was to establish alternative channel for the small-holder farmers, promote market-led production in long run, and facilitate marketing of semi-commercial production amongst other.

Some of the major challenges involved in implementing the programme are the low volume and scattered locations increasing transaction cost, famer’s high price expectations, risk involved especially with perishable commodities and with no confirmed budget for buy-back.

The Council’s Social and Cultural Affairs Committee (SCAC) has resumed the review of situation of human trafficking in Bhutan. In August, SCAC met with the members of Hotels and Restaurant Association of Bhutan, officials of the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the members of the Guides Association of Bhutan.

According to the committee, increased demand for labour for domestic help and construction projects, coupled with high unemployment and lack of awareness amongst stakeholders and public alike were pointed as some of the contributing factors to the situation of human trafficking in Bhutan.

Learning sign language is important to listen to deaf people

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:25

Yangchen C Rinzin | Paro

Students of the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf in Paro requested communities to accept the deaf community as a part of their community by learning sign language and communicate with them.

This was the message the students passed through sign language interpreters, as they celebrated the international week of the deaf yesterday with the theme “sign language rights for all.”

Nima Tshering, 24, the institute’s captain said although he can communicate in signs, he had to face a lot of challenges including social stigma. “I was sad because I couldn’t communicate with my mother and friends. I wanted to go to school but I couldn’t.”

In 2009, Nima joined Wangsel Institute. Nima said that sign language  should be included in the Bhutanese language to give them rights to the language.

“This will make us feel we belong to the community and get our own identity. Today, I am proud that I can communicate and learn, however, the community also must learn the sign languages.”

Vice-principal Norbu said that sign language is not meant only for the deaf people but for all. He said hearing people need to understand and learn sign language for communication to bring together deaf people in the community.

“Hearing community should render support to deaf people to have the right to information, which is through communication.”

Kinley Pelden realised his son was deaf at the age of two and he did everything to cure the deafness. “I started talking with my son with finger-pointing and hand gestures. It was so difficult to learn his feelings and most of the time I assumed what he was saying.”

Everything changed after his son went to Wangsel institute. “This has made me realised that the support should first come from parents and then the community,” she said. “It empowers our children and I encourage parents to learn sign language.”

The institute provides an opportunity for parents to learn sign languages at the institute for one hour on Fridays.

Vice-principal Norbu said the deaf people need a platform and this should come from the community and parents should come forward to bring their students to the institute instead of feeling embarrassed, which is the case today.

Deaf teacher, Chencho Dem, said that early intervention was important.”Support should start as soon as parents find out the child is deaf,” she said. She said most of the children come with zero sign language and no foundation, which is why the institute now provides sign language classes for five months before starting the age-appropriate education.

“Since we’ve less deaf population right now, it has not received much importance and the only information the child get is from their parents through hand gestures,” she said. “Without early interventions, the child loses the language acquisition period.”

Funded by the Australian Volunteer International under the disability grant scheme, one of the week’s programme includes creating awareness for high-level officials and stakeholders in the ministries and organisations to give importance to deaf culture and community.

As per the National Statistical Bureau (NSB) there are 3,650 hard of hearing people and 1,344 are deaf.

Since its establishment in 2003, today there are 118 people enrolled in Wangsel Institute. 

“The enrolment fluctuates and only very few parents bring children to study in this Institution,” Chencho Dem said, adding this was probably due to the location and accessibility to the institute apart from social stigma. 

Expert working groups work on revamping TVET

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:24

Yangchen C Rinzin

Taking forward the government’s plan to revamp Technical and Vocational Educational and Training (TVET), the government has issued an executive order to establish two expert working groups.

The expert working group will look into mandates and core business areas of the TVET institution, policy and legal framework for the TVET institution. This will help establish if the institutions could function as an independent organisation.

The independent institution would be initially housed under the Prime Minister’s office.

Staffing, structure and governance mechanism are some of the option it will explore, including linkages with relevant stakeholders like education ministry, Royal University of Bhutan, labour ministry, Royal Education Council, and private sectors to work together to revamp the TVET.

With the plan to hire international expertise including for management and operation of Technical Training Institutes, it would also recommend possible areas for such hiring. The group is expected to complete the work by October 18.

According to the government’s executive order, another group will look into curriculum, which will work till October 31. It will look into formulating broad principles of the curriculum ensuring it meets the demands of future economic trends and technological advancement instead of only considering present employability. “They would be responsible to identify subject areas that could promote creations, diversification and expansion of the economy. It would also include attention of foreign investments driven by local skills and technology.”

This would also identify subject areas of technical and vocational education, corresponding learning outcomes and standards for markets including out of Bhutan.

Some of the subject areas that would be covered on the possibility are technical and vocational subjects as elective for classes VII-X and XI-XII, certificate level, and diploma and advanced diploma.

“It would also look into the review equivalency framework and credit transfers and pathways to university education. It’ll identify expertise both national and international for detailed subject wise curriculum development,” executive order stated.

The formation of the expert groups is following the TVET framework that was prepared by the Prime Minister Office (PMO) on current situation and proposed changes to the relevant stakeholders on August 30.

The TVET framework revealed that in the current situation, there is no opportunity after attending the TVET and it is the end of the system.

The vocational course is considered second or last or not at all an option and only about seven percent of Class X passed students enrolled in the TVET system.

One of the key findings during the preparation of TVET framework was that on an average, about 1,500 Class X passed students leave education system in a year.

Earlier Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that it would look into how TVET could be developed to make it an option, but not the last option.

“We want to work together to develop TVET like a third university. Today, the belief is that TVET is chosen as the last option. This should change.”

Much remains to be accomplished

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:24

MPs are on constituency visit and the voters are, apparently, keeping them on their toes.

In a democracy, such a trend is healthy and welcome.

It would be unfortunate for the country and its long-term future if our honourable MPs did not take a blind bit of notice of the people’s true concerns and real aspirations.

We tell ourselves, often, that we are a young democracy and that along the way occasional misstandings and errors are only to be expected.

But then, therein lies the real danger. We run the risk of taking democracy for granted.

In many ways we have had the singular advantage of visionary leadership which continues to guide our development initiatives. But the challenges are growing.

We might congratulate ourselves, as we should, for all that we have until now achieved, but we can ill afford to bask in our past successes.

Bringing development to the people is important; more important, however, is to bring development that benefits the people.

It is true that Bhutan had to rush on the path of modernisation. The world beyond, our development partners in particular, still envy what we as a nation could achieve in the short period of time.

What made our development journey a rare success has been our commitment to addressing the real challenges on the ground with judicious use of limited resources.

We heard the needs of the people and got our priorities right.

This rare combination of intent and vision increasingly threaten to elude us today.

We might do well, therefore, to recognise where our true priorities lie.

The theme of our development, it appears, has not changed much since the early days of planned development. Our needs are largely still basic.

Water is becoming scarcer by the year, hampering agricultural productivity. Factors like human-wildlife conflict and lack of meaningful employment are aggravating poverty and rural to urban drift.

The fact that these issues continue to plague a large number of our people means we have not done enough.

And there are the political promises to keep, some of which are already proving to be expensive.

It is incumbent on our MPs to bring these issues in the Parliament with renewed force and energy. And the voters must hold them to account.

A lot has been achieved; a lot more remains to be accomplished.