7 AUGUST 2012 The Ministry of Education has once again rejected our proposal to introduce hostels at Pelkhil. We had submitted the proposal as a viable solution for dealing with the declining state of discipline among urban youth and the inability of parents to control their own children. This is the second rejection, the first being in 2009.

“The Private School Technical Committee Members meeting was held on 26/07/2012 whereby the committee recommended that such proposal cannot be approved since the Policy does not permit it” states the letter.

The ‘policy’ refers to the rule formulated about a decade ago to ‘combat’ the rising rural-urban migration and the increase in the number of dependents in urban schools. It was optimistic at best because the MOE’s policy alone would have no impact when the causes of migration are so multi-faceted. No other ministry ever came up with any similar regulation. A decade on and the phenomenon is going on full swing. Most seats in the government schools are occupied by rural migrants or dependents. And the picture is the same in the private schools. In fact, all of the scholarship slots offered by Pelkhil to the MOE have been filled by dependents. Ironic.

The policy is irrelevant also because private school boarding won’t be free and the typical dependent student is most unlikely to pay for it. Our target students are those studying abroad, mostly in India and the hordes of students already studying here whose parents keep requesting for hostels. Hostels will serve to clear the streets of students during most school days and nights and help to cultivate a regular schedule of study and play that most parents are unable to do. Where possible, it is the perfect answer to bringing a higher standard of discipline and behavior in the schools.

Another irony is that many of the hordes of dependent students in Thimphu already live in ‘hostel type’ housing with many students living together in rented apartments. Apartments in Thimphu have been converted into ‘paying guest’ type arrangements for unsupervised students from other dzongkhags. Surely this is not a better arrangement than a proper hostel with wardens and matrons?

It is a pity when rules, once made are allowed to overrule common sense. If laws and even the Constitution can be changed, why not obsolete rules?

What is also news is the revelation that Reldri HSS in Phuntsholing received permission to provide hostels even though they are located in the municipal boundary. The MOE response to this was “They’re not located in the urban boundary, they’re in the rural part of Phuntsholing.” Wrong, they are located in the extended municipality boundary of Phuntsholing, just as Pelkhil School is located in Thimphu’s extended boundary.

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