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Youth and the issues
Administrator, March 30, 2012
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At Royal Thimphu College this week, Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay shared with faculty and students the many problems and challenges confronting the nation. He talked about the rupee shortage the country’s lately been suffering from, which could also be called economic crisis at home, and how important it is for Bhutan to grow its own food, how private sector growth could be pushed forward so that Bhutan would have much more to export and would not have to depend on other countries so much, which could be interpreted as bolstering or safeguarding Bhutan’s sovereignty, the rising income disparity and abject poverty in the rural pockets of the country. All these are serious issues indeed. All these need earnest thinking and solutions must be found. The sooner the better. But of them all, his talk centred on youth and youth-related issues. We have of late witnessed many youth-related problems, and his attempt at trying to reach to college students was only very relevant. Because a large percentage of Bhutan’s population is composed of young people, perhaps our politicians and policy makers should get down to sitting with the young people more often than not and try to understand their problems and needs. Solutions cannot be found by alienating from the problems. Acceptance is necessary for understanding anything. It begins with embracing the problems. Perhaps we haven’t yet been able to accept that our youths need more attention than we give them now. Perhaps. For why in spite of all that we do or claim to do for them, the problem persists?  Why are increasing number of our young people dropping out of school? Why are they taking to the streets hollering, fighting and making trouble? Why are so many of our young people jobless? Clearly, they need something more than what we think they need. And what we need is clear understanding of why things are so. We need to get to the root of the problem. But then, we can do only so much even as when want to contribute in our small ways, because our politicians and top bureaucrats cannot accept that there is a problem. In fact, many problems. They discourage discussion and debates on certain issues of national importance. They cannot take criticisms positively. It hurts them to be told that things are not quite right down there or up here and that they should own it or right it as their calling. So they call people’s opinions accusatory, that it is putting them down with selective dramatization of the issues or the offices concerned. How can issues then be brought to the fore? How can the issues be put to right if there is no healthy debate about the issues concerning the people and the country? This is where things are wrong, which prevents us from getting to the bottom of the problem to identify them, so that we may devise plans and ways to correct the them where correcting is necessary. Getting back to the youth and youth-related problems the country is facing today, we need to begin by first understanding why so many of our young people are leaving school and languishing without job. Dealing with the problem on the surface level will not get us anywhere. But that’s what we have been doing all along. Youth are leaving schools not because they are not interested in education. They are not leaving school because there are plenty of jobs they’d rather take it now than wasting their time in schools. Increasing number of our young people are leaving schools because they have no guidance from parents, who are mostly poor and cannot afford to keep their children in the schools. A large number of our youth are jobless today because even after graduation they cannot find employment. That however doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs in the market. They are jobless because the kind of education they received in the school did not prepare them for the jobs that are available. Yes, to understand the problem of our youth, we need to get to the quality of education we give them in our schools. The link is of course obvious. Only we have always failed to accept it. Youth – our future leaders – are not getting prepared the way they should be. This is sad. This is dangerous. And this could be linked to many other things that are no less serious and important for the future of our country – economy, poverty, sovereignty and all that. Simple measures could be take, one at a time. For instance, we could do well by not importing some foreign systems of education that doesn’t quite fit in with our culture. Our parents and educators should set our own standards of excellence that will best benefit our young people. We might begin with trying to find ways in which parents could have more time with their children so that they are able to guide and assess the progress of their children after school. Youth and youth-related problems, or any other problem for that matter, could be understood only if we can accept that there is a problem. However, understanding alone will not redeem us. We must have the will to fix them. Only then will we have done anything good. By Jigme Wangchuk

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