Friday, 6 May 2016

A Promised Revolution

Education in Bhutan has witnessed a steady growth and amelioration over the years. Time has revolutionized our age-old monastic education into the current modern education. The ramshackle school buildings of the past has been transformed into elegant structures of the present while the slates and chalks we used for writing have become obsolete with the ingress of assorted materials of books, pens and pencils in the writing market. Many have changed, yet many remains to be changed.

With the voluntary resignation of Lyonpo Mingbu Drukpa as the Education Minister, a new promising protagonist has emerged on the scene adorned with all his embellished promises and propaganda. The new Education Minister, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk, has taken a bold leap into the oceanic world of education in Bhutan. He can unquestionably be called the ‘Moses’ of Bhutanese Education System who has pledged to offer us the ‘Promised Land’ and a decent future.

The Education Minister, during his visit to Lungtenphu Lower Secondary School under Thimphu Thromde on 21st April 2016, elucidated on his unwavering dedication to revolutionize the education system in the country. The back-breaking workload of teachers, the ageing curriculum and School as an Institution was immaculately described as the tripod for the escalation of education in Bhutan. The ‘three critical pillars of education’ as expounded by the Education Minister is a manifestation of his impeccable comprehension of the education system in Bhutan. The success of education in Bhutan, indeed, rests on this tripod.

Elucidating on the first pillar, School as an Institution, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk stated that schools must be ‘made conducive for learning with a proper environment’ in respect to physical, social and emotional greenery. Most of the ‘forgotten schools’ of our country has survived through the ages with poor physical facilities. The intimidating roofs of schools which threatened to fall any moment, the large unattended gaps between the planks, the dripping teardrops from the water taps and the bountiful inhabitants of pitifully small classroom are some, amongst many, which has become an inseparable picturesque of Bhutanese schools. An amelioration of these standards would undoubtedly augment the quality of education in Bhutan.

The second pillar, teachers, or ‘foot soldiers’ (as he put it), play a pivotal role in the success or failure of any education system. The quality and the level of motivation of these ‘critical players’ weaves itself very intricately into any educational web. Apart from the teaching prerogatives, a teacher is expected to carry out multiple other academic and co-curricular responsibilities. Babysitting, negotiating, counseling, barbering, doctoring are but few expected roles besides the normal responsibilities of delivering lessons and correcting their works. The laudable initiatives of other agencies and departments find seepage into the mainstream adding on to the already inexhaustible list of responsibilities. Arming these ‘foot soldiers’ with weapons congruent to the challenges of a modern education system will indubitably bring unconditional proliferation in the quality of education.

The third pillar, curriculum, is a topic of deliberation for both the wise as well as amateur minds like my own. Foreign curriculums have penetrated into the Bhutanese education system. These glamorous systems with all its promises of superfluous results have dominated the gullible mindsets of the Bhutanese educationist. All attempts have been made to modernize the education system, only leading it to further westernization. No foreign system can work miracles on the Bhutanese soil; for we are we and they are they. One must not expect to grow sub-tropical fruits in the Himalayas. It’s time we teach our children what they ought to know, rather than stuffing them with all the primordial facts. We must focus on preparing our children for the future by providing them with a vivacious curriculum at present.

These matters, explicated in a pellucid manner, have brought unconditional hope and motivation to the teacher audience. Most could envisage the prospect of an enhanced future. Many a frayed hearts were sutured, many more were convalesced.

The thunder has cracked; let’s wait to see the lightning.                  

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A Letter to My Son on His Birthday

My Dear Son,
Pema Ugyen Namdrol Jamtsho
As you complete the eighth and enter the ninth year of your life, allow this unfortunate ‘dad’ of yours to offer my heartfelt best wishes on your birthday. May the year ahead fill you with all the happiness you deserve. May you overcome all challenges that lie ahead.

I have always thought about you. You have always been in my heart and soul but somehow somewhere I have never found the nerve to contact you. However, that does not change the fact that I loved you with all my heart, I still do and will always do till my last breath. Never think, even for a slight moment, that your father does not love you.

I have looked at your pictures a thousand times, kissed them a million times more and every time I did, I wept silently. I love you and miss you more with each passing and ageing day of my life. I see you in every child I encounter and the slightest memory of you has never failed to drive me to tears. I know I am not worthy of your forgiveness. Though I have not been able to see you grow in front of my eyes, you have grown in my heart and like your mother carried you in her womb for nine painful months, I shall carry you in my heart for the rest of my days on earth.

Always remember, my dear son, that things always don’t turn out the way we want in life. There are things we don’t have control over. I was destined to be away from you and love you from behind tears but forgive me if you ever can.

Loving you dearly,

With outmost love,

Your dad

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


he mighty ‘Mother Nature’ has unfolded its rage on the innocent unsuspecting people of Nepal. What remains now of this beautiful landscape is a massive mound of soil, a colossal mountain of debris and thousands of walking shadows.

Even as I write this paragraph, I can see a soiled-child rummaging for his favourite toy amidst the mount of debris, his heart-broken mother calling for him beyond madness and a father hoping to find the familiar faces of his family amongst the unfamiliar faces through the clouds of dust. If it hurts us even just to imagine, lay your hands on these affected people. You might barely hear their heart beats. For many, these tremors took away everything they had; even the reason to breathe. One can only see the horror but not the pain Nepalese people are going through. What if we were one of them? The excruciating pain would have been enough to drive us insane.

All beautiful monuments have faded into time. All visual splendour has been obliterated. All giggles and laughter have suddenly transformed into painful moans and cries. All smiles disappeared into sorrows of eternity. All peace turned into cacophony. Where is that Nepal we used to know? Where are all those jubilant joyous people?

 O Mighty Lord, please forgive them if they have sinned. May our poor neighbour emerge unvanquished from this Battle for Survival against Mother Nature. May our prayers find its way into the hearts of our Nepalese friends to give them the strength to bear their infinite loss. May god have mercy on us all.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

dedicated to my teacher Mrs Tshering Yangden 'Uden'

My Teacher, My Dream.
As I walk my days to months
And months to years I age on,
I see the footsteps you left by
Etched in history and eternity.

The words you used to tell me then
Makes my sentences today.
The paths you showed me yesterday
Has become my very highway now.

Being loved, taught me to love,
Being guided I learnt to guide.
Having received, I realized to give,
Having been led, I learnt to lead.

Your past’s face is my future’s dream,
Your yesterday’s deeds, my present actions.
Your early thoughts, my tomorrow’s guide
Yesterday’s you is tomorrow’s me.

-Rinchen Phuntsho

Thursday, 7 March 2013

‘My Dreamland.’

I dream a dream of being in my dreamland;
Its tall buildings, landscape and vistas
Fascinates me and soothes my aching soul.
Its woods and planes do seem to me
Like a magical world of dreams it be.
But I shall question through eternity,
Would the soil there smell of fraternity?
And will the air smell of love?
Will one live in freedom and age with dignity?
Will a mother feed her children
Love, warmth, sweat and blood?
Will all people pray for you,
Even when you mean none to them?
Will people forgive in humbleness
Or curse you in utter disgrace?
If be not these in my dreamland,
I would rot in a happy hell
Than prosper in an unhappy heaven.
The land full of hopes, the land free of guillotine,
This is my land, my country Bhutan.   
                                                                                             -Rinchen Phuntsho.

Teacher – by Choice or by Chance?
I vividly recollect to this day how I stammered and stuttered while delivering a speech on this same topic as a final year trainee in the exalted Paro College of Education. My talk, then, centered on the behaviours of the trainees (including myself) juxtaposed to the expected behaviorism of a would-be-teacher. Now, five years into the service, the same question confronts me.
Situation has changed considerably since the time we last attended the lectures at the Colleges of Education. New times bring forth new challenges. The syllabus has changed, the classrooms have changed, the class strengths have changed and so are the customs of the schools but have we changed to meet the challenges of the changing times? Are we who we have been many years before? Or have we undergone some amount of transformation in making ourselves congruent to the changed times?
Do we judge a student’s performance by his/her academic transcripts? Do we take their cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains into consideration while measuring a child’s performance? Do we just deliver the bookish knowledge or endeavour to infuse personal attributes and values of a good human being? Are we just taking into account his/her physical growth and relegating their mental growth? Are we? Are we not?
A child is the mirror of a teacher. What became of your students is what we made them become. How he/she is, mirrors how we are. A teacher, who, fuelled by his intrinsic motivation, utilizes his environment positively in favour of his students, is destined to produce a productive member of the nation. It is wise to produce a good servant than to produce a bad leader.
A teacher by choice has an intrinsic motivation to motivate the unmotivated, wake the un-awakened and educate the uneducated. These attributes are mirrored in the success or the failure of his/her students. “Children today do not study and the parents are not bothered about the performance of their children” are but lame excuses. It is the duty of the teacher to illuminate the darkness of not only the students but also their parents and make them equally accountable for their children’s performance. A good teacher must not circumscribe his/her reach within the four corners of the classroom but should, on the other hand, strive to make the whole wide world his/her classroom. After all, service to humanity is service to god.
A teacher must free himself from the social and racial bindings. Teaching is never limited to certain privileged groups. A child rummaging through the piles of garbage and a child languishing in the comfort of his extravagant luxuries equally deserve the attention of a teacher. A teacher’s heart, which many feel never grows old, must not be swayed in favour of any student. It must never be subjected to such impurities of mind. Teaching should be a prayer from the heart and not just a word from the mouth.

A story by one of my CE students from the School of language and Cultural Studies

The Unseen Fate
Rabgyel, 30, was a tall and handsome man. Ongmo, 22 was a girl whose beauty could make any man turn and stare as she walked. Rabgyel and Ongmo were different in so many ways. While the former was shy and quiet, the later was frank, friendly and was fond of talking. Despite this, they were the model of a perfect couple. Their relationship was admired and much talked about by their friends. Apart from love and care, the strength and continuity of their relationship imprinted from their respect. They would look at themselves wonderingly at how perfect they looked together.
After a year, Ongmo gave birth to a daughter named Tenzin. Their bond still continued with the same affection as if it was carved on stone. They were the happiest family in the community and very soon they became parents of two children.
In due course of time, Rabgyel, working for the Ministry of health, got training for a year in Bangkok and Ongmo, a housewife stayed back at home looking after their children. They tried every possible ways imaginable to contact each other through phone calls and emails and their love was binding glue.
It was during one of his holidays that Rabgyel went home to meet Ongmo and his children. It was the day they had been looking forward to for a long time. The mere thought of seeing each other was in itself a paradise, but the next day, their excitement subsided and it took a wrong turn. They spoke of going their own separate ways. Rabgyel wanted to know everything. “What’s more to know?” asked Ongmo. They had always been in touch and had known each other so intimately or at least that’s what she thought till then. But he grew jealous on even hearing about a male colleague she was close to, particularly a guy named Nyenjay. He had heard so much of him as always being with her. When Rabgyel was in Bangkok, he had heard from his sister and a friend that a guy named Nyenjay was always with Ongmo, never leaving her side. This was one reason why he wanted to meet her so badly to find out if the rumours he heard back in Bangkok was true. He looked mad and though she tried her best to explain, he did not listen and was stubborn. He complained so much about her Continuing Education where she had enrolled herself to upgrade her qualification. It actually was a question of insecurity in relation to their relationship and it became a daily routine for Rabgyel to scold and harass Ongmo. The more their differences rose, the harder they fell.
Rabgyel left for Bangkok the next day. Neither could say anything more. All they did was hurt each other’s feelings and parted. He disappeared from her side like a rainbow and she cried alone. If only he had trusted her a little more and valued her love. She was left home all torn and hurt, her love at risk and herself in stains. She had always been faithful but Rabgyel thought so low of her. She cried in her room round the clock. Something just did not seem right and she could not go to sleep.
Months later, Ongmo’s thoughts were interrupted by a phone call. She rushed to the drawing room and held her hand to the mobile phone. Unexpectedly, it was a call from her friend Kinley. Before she could say anything, she blurted out, “a divorce” and she knew the rest. They were silent for a long moment before she broke down. “Kinley, please don’t tell me that Rabgyel wants a divorce from me…don’t say it’s so…please!” she cried into the phone.
“I am so sorry Ongmo,” said Kinley.
She sank into a deep despair. Everything shattered. She thought of their togetherness, “Trust me honey, you are the only one I owe my love to in this world. Can’t you believe me?” he used to say and then his most selfish remark, “I heard a lot about you and a man named Nyenjay from my friends…what’s the story between the two of you? No! Wait! I don’t even want to hear it…it’s over between us!” She wanted to hold him back and clarify but it all happened so quickly in the blink of an eye.
On Rabgyel’s return from Bangkok, they got divorced. Their dreams were all shattered and their two children were left separated. One day, when Rabgyel was cleaning the house, he found Ongmo’s diary lying beneath the bed. He could not believe that she had recorded each and every moment of their love and affection. He opened the page 27, dated 18th July 2012 and read:
Dear Rabgyel,
In my heart of hearts, I have always loved you with all the strength in my soul and will continue to do so forever. As always, you will be a part of me. You were the sole person I wanted to devote my memory to for the rest of my life. Never in my life have I loved any one as much as I loved you. Back then, you never let me explain about me and Nyenjay. This is the last chance for me to explain about him before you start your life anew. Nyenjay is my long lost brother…
Rabgyel could not believe his eyes but he read all…….
Yours Ongmo
Rabgyel knew that he would never forgive himself for what he had done. He knew that he would live his life with regret. If only he had listened to her…..if only….if only…….

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

...And Then An Angel Came

Life has given me quite a lot but took twice of what it gave.
Dark black perilous clouds, clouds that foretold unwelcomed sorrow,
Hovered over me like an unwanted faithful dog.
It shed tears of inexhaustible misery, misery that aroused immense agony –
They fell on my sickened heart like little drops of perilous acid.

They robbed my mind of any peace and my heart of any joy,
In their cemetery they dug a grave to bury my smiles for all eternity.
The joys of laughter, the warmth of love,
The comfort of luxury, the fragrance of freedom,
All turned into a distant dream of a long forgotten world.

And then an angel came
To dig my grave and resurrect me,
To hold my hands and walk by me,
To wipe my tears and dress my wounds,
To give me love and guide me home – The Glorious Land of Euphoria.  

She held my hands and warmed my heart,
She kissed my lips and consoled my soul.
She pointed at the darkened clouds and in soothing voice she said to me,
“Don’t die before your death but instead learn to live and laugh,
For I will never leave your side and that I promise you my dear.”