Safety First!

Posted: September 25, 2010 in No- nonsense, Opinions

The neighboring hills of Kalimpong and Darjeeling are favorite destinations for tertiary education to children of many average middle class Bhutanese families. Particularly for two reasons that is – because of proximity of the colleges and affordability of tuition fees.

The tradition goes a long way back to the 50’s and 60’s when the Bhutanese nobility started sending their children to these places for their education. A majority of government officials of rank and file are products of colleges from the hills.

Even today, hundreds of Bhutanese students graduate from numerous colleges in the region every year. Until recently, the hills have been ideal educational hub but for the ongoing political turmoil and unrest there.

More than 500 Bhutanese students are at present pursing various undergraduate courses there, exposed to vulnerabilities of all sorts. In a recent incident a few Bhutanese students were dragged into a political procession under coercion.

Although there have not been any reports of assault or unlikely mishap, this incident only reaffirms the fact that Bhutanese students are not free from possible danger. There are reasons to be concerned (but not to be alarmed or frantic), after all it is a matter of safety of Bhutanese students studying there.

Parents must be aware of the ongoing political tensions and the impending risks to their children, both in terms of their education and security. This is not to discourage parents from sending their children to the hills but a cautionary note. Often colleges have been disrupted during political strikes stranding students amid political confusion and upheaval in the hills and worrying parents back home.

The logical solution is to stop students from going to the hills, at least until political calm is restored. But that is easier said than done. Many parents cannot afford to send children to other parts of India or for that matter abroad for studies given the expensive college fees.

Therefore, the onus falls on the government ultimately, to create avenues for tertiary education within the country. The government must encourage private colleges that offer affordable education to Bhutanese students. This will not only solve ongoing difficulties faced by students studying abroad but will also boost tertiary education facilities in the long run.

Bhutan is planning to become an education hub in the region with plans to attract foreign students to the country. We might as well start by providing facilities to attract our students to study in our own private colleges first.

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