The youth Center in Wangdue, located at the heart of the Bajo town is keeping youths engaged meaningfully by involving them in various educational and co-curricular activities this winter. The booming music from the center leads to a group of youths as young as 14 years old and volunteers in their early twenties, dancing in synchrony to the tune of a dzongkha song. The youths, as explained by Pema Wangchuk, the Administration Assistant at the center are practicing for the upcoming program to celebrate the 50 years of friendship between India and Bhutan.
The Bajo youth center was established in 2014 by the Department of Youth and Sports under Ministry of Education to productively engage the youths residing in the locality. “The center facilitates as an important source of recreational activities, and educational experiences to the young minds. The center has launched the Bajo Youth volunteer group with ten active members coinciding with the birth anniversary of His Majesty The King on 21st February, 2015. As of date there are around 39 active youth volunteers and 185 registered youths availing the services provided by the center,” said Pema Wangchuk. The youth volunteers at the center functions with a vision to promote active citizenship amongst youth of Bhutan through voluntary service and with a mission to make Bajo Youth Center more vibrant and sustainable through the involvement of youth volunteers.
The Administration Assistant said that the learning is not only confined to reading, writing and educational experiences, but the youths are also made to play chess, ludo, carom board and browse internet with guidance to widen their learning horizon. The youths are also encouraged to participate in youth forums and youth outreach program organized by the center in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. The members also carry out cleaning campaigns around the locality and visit temples to lend their services during public events.
Although the center is primarily intended for youths aged 13 to 24, Pema Wangchuk said that there are interested members as young as 7 years and above.
“We go around the schools and advocate among the parents on such centers and encourage them to register their child with us so that they can be actively engaged. The centers also cater to the youths with drug addiction problem by giving them counseling and at the same time maintaining full confidentiality about their problems from other members,” said Pema Wangchuk.
A volunteer with the center, Kinley Dorji, who is awaiting his class 12 Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA) results said that he has been actively volunteering with the center for about two and half years now. “The center is equipped with quite a number of books and unlike in schools there is no such thing as due dates. The youths can take their time to read the book and study at the same time, there is no rush. In schools, most of our youths are guided by the teachers and captain, whom they also fear, but here in center, they can be very open-minded and less pressurized. Most of the children during winter spend their time watching television and sleeping, but the center help youths come together and explore means to solve youth related problems.”
Another member at the center, with the same, Kinley Dorji, studying in Bajothang Higher Secondary School said that he came to know about the center through his friends and decided to register himself with the center too. “I like the fact that here in the center, I can freely interact with my friends and be more at ease, unlike in schools. I like every program rolled out by the center because every program provides a greater learning experience and our time is spent meaningfully.”
Sonam Yangchen, 12 said that she came to know about the center through advocacy programs. “More than staying at home and just watching television, now I enjoy coming to the youth center daily and learning many new things almost every time. One of my favorite programs so far as is the Driglam Namzha classes which is something new, but I enjoy learning them because I feel it is important for us to know that. I also love the fact that we can make new friends here.”
Ministry of Education also aims to provide opportunities for the youths to develop their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive abilities and to experience achievements, leadership, friendship, and recognition through such centers. Ten youth centers have been established in Bhutan to address the emerging issues of youth in the country.