Migration to urban centres is an on-going and unrelenting phenomenon. The consequences of youth delinquency and related problems manifest themselves without fail because most migrant parents do not understand the challenges of parenting in the urban centres. Often only the children migrate and live with relatives who have little time to supervise their wards beyond giving food and shelter.

The private schools of Thimphu accept 30-70% of students from outside Thimphu. Government schools take their own large share of migrant students as well. The precise numbers are hard to obtain because it is technically against the rule to give seats to non-resident students and so the paperwork always shows the applicant as a local student.

But one gets a very clear idea by looking at the transfer certificate which indicates which school and dzongkhag they are coming from.

It is our contention that the reason Thimphu city alone has about 20,000 students is that the government schools themselves are admitting non-local students in a big way. For every new seat made available, there are at least 2-3 seeking to fill it. And they do. Once they are here, unsupervised, youth problems will arise.

Every year, the Ministry of Education also requests for scholarships for needy students from the private schools which they use to place deserving and needy students in the private schools. One look at the list of placed students is enough to realize that almost every year, 100% of these students are not local students. All scholarships placed at Pelkhil since 2011 have been non-local as well.

This is at odds with another policy of the Ministry that bans hostels in any school, private or government, in urban centres such as Thimphu and Phuentsholing. The premise is that residential schools will encourage rural-urban migration and apparently the Ministry of Education has a policy against this phenomenon. Perhaps the only ministry that does. A written policy as such has never actually been seen, but much is spoken about it. Pelkhil School’s three requests to open boarding have not even been discussed at the Ministry simply because ‘it is against policy’.

The irony is that residential programs are the best way to address the problem of poor adult supervision. In fact the Ministry’s own solution of ‘consolidating’ schools in centralized urban or semi-urban centres with residential facilities, to more efficiently utilize scarce resources recognizes this fact. The previous policy of taking schools to the villages is no longer tenable when the villages themselves are shifting and teachers extremely reluctant to be sent and forgotten in remote schools. The Ministry’s stand to allow thousands of students outside Thimphu to join schools here but not to have the means to be properly supervised, is therefore very conflicted. It is a good recipe to exacerbate the problems associated with the youth in the urban centres.

The Thimphu Structure Plan envisages the need for much greater volume of school facilities in Thimphu. The Thimphu Thrompon also was quoted on BBS saying that Thimphu’s population could easily double to 200,000. Can we really imagine handling 50,000 students then, when we are struggling to cope with fewer than 20,000 today?

We need good solutions. If not solutions, we need to provide a situation that facilitates stakeholders in finding those solutions. Holding on resolutely to muddled policies is not very helpful.

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