10 % of students and 2 % of the staff to be tested randomly in 12 schools

The Ministry of Education (MoE) in partnership with the Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency (BNCA) will be testing staff and students on the use of controlled drugs and substances in 12 identified schools based on certain information.

The Officiating Secretary Karma Galay of MoE said drug test kits have arrived in the country and the education ministry will direct identified schools to do drug testing anytime soon. However, the ministry has not informed the identified schools as the drug test will be a surprise test and it will be done randomly on staff and students. Two percent of the school staff and 10 percent of the students will be tested randomly. The trained health coordinator in the respective schools will do the testing.

He said it is the very first time that the education ministry is doing this, and from next year all the students and parents will be informed at the beginning of the year that the school will be randomly testing students.

Conducting drug tests in the schools has been a plan for a long time, said the officiating secretary.

The education ministry wishes to go nationwide, but the test kit is expensive as it costs Nu 400 for each test.

The officiating secretary said, “Drug tests are not to criminalize students and we are not at all targeting students. Instead we want to take care of them and make them better citizens in the future. It is a holistic approach.”

During the drug tests, if any students are found positive, then they will be provided counseling in the school or referred to a rehabilitation center for three months to six months according to the nature and severity of the students’ substance abuse. If the students want to continue the studies they can after they complete their three months in rehabilitation.

The very purpose of doing this is to deter the students and others who are not into drugs. If this is not done at the school level, then next time it will be difficult to correct this. From next year, the ministry will start from lower schools because if they are ignored and they only test higher level students then they will probably get spoilt, said the officiating secretary.

Also, the officiating secretary shared their concern that if a huge number of students test positive for controlled drugs, then it will be difficult to send all students to rehabilitation centers. So, therefore, the education ministry is expecting that there will be not many students who will be testing positive.

However, teachers and principals of different schools in the country said there will not be many students who will test positive as officials from the education ministry has been visiting schools in all the dzongkhags. He said teachers are spending every day with their students and they know students more than anyone else, from behavior to physical looks, said the officiating secretary.

He said the recent MoE notification itself is a huge deterrence, and now kids are more careful. The ministry along with the police are sensitizing on the dos and don’ts at the dzongkhag level. Plus, many parents were appreciating the ministry’s approach to stopping students from using controlled substances.

Parents will also be questioned if their child tests positive. He said parents are accountable for every little thing such as the failure of the children in exams. It was always the education ministry blamed for that. “We want parents to also take equal responsibility in upbringing their children,” said the officiating secretary.

The education ministry has also formed a Prevention Leadership Action Team comprising teachers, and principals at the school level and Dzongda and Thrompon at the dzongkhag level.

Meanwhile, with the recent incident where students got in conflict with the law in Thimphu, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) will be carrying out extensive patrolling to curb the increasing number of student’s involvement in the assault, battery, and abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance (NDPS).

As per the RBP record, students arrested to date for the above crimes are also in possession of weapons of offenses such as, knives, clubs, rods, knuckles, and sticks. It is also learned that students very often engage in these violent crimes in groups which is an impediment to society.

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