Keeping schools safe

The news of a Vice Principal molesting school children has sent shockwaves throughout the country.

This is not only because of the nature of the crime, but because the victims were young children and the perpetrator was a teacher.

Parents send their children to school with a lot of trust and children also have an implicit trust in their schools and teachers.

The worst thing that the education sector can do right now is to become defensive, treat it as an isolated incident and conveniently brush the matter under the carpet, until it happens again.

The vice principal in question was convicted for a similar offence in the past, but he was allowed to teach and get close to children again as neither our education system nor Bhutan’s criminal and legal system have a registry or system to track child sex offenders.

This incident cannot be treated as a one-off incident in the education system. There have been other incidents in the past that have come up in the media.

Stories by real people coming on social media and other anecdotal accounts recount horror stories where some teachers seem to have gotten away with years of abuse.

Teachers and school staff have tremendous power over impressionable young students. After all, teachers are not only an authority figure but also play and important role in the academic future of young children.

To add to that, Bhutan is still a very traditional and conservative society where it is seen as taboo for school children to complain against teachers indulging in bad behavior.

Therefore, the reported cases in the public domain could only be a tip of the ice berg.

The vast majority of our teachers are law abiding and upstanding members of the society, making really important contributions to nation building.

However, the fear of offending the image or sensibility of this sizeable mass should not prevent the relevant authorities from carrying out investigations and measures to throw out the few bad apples or prevent them from getting into the system at all.

Abuse thrives in a system that does not acknowledge it and protects the wrong doers.

It is high time that we acknowledge that we have a real problem on our hands and deal with it instead of trying to downplay the issue.

“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.” 
Dave Pelzer

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