The case of a Dzongkha teacher injecting his students with an unsterilized syringe as punishment, symbolizes the vulnerability of Bhutanese children in a system and society that is yet to fully understand them.
Though it has been globally established that corporal punishment is an ineffective and counter-productive way to discipline children many among the educated sections in Bhutan are still debating the values of having corporal punishment.
The ultimate act of striking children whether by a teacher or parent is a sign that the teacher or parent has failed and given up all other methods which can be more effective in the long run.
Nobody has even been beaten to be a good student or a good human being. Animals are beaten and roughed up to break their spirit or to provoke a violent reaction from them.
There is more than adequate scientific data to show that children that are exposed to physical and emotional abuse particularly at a tender age and over a prolonged period tend to be more violent, delinquent and more prone to drug and alcohol abuse.
This is also at a time when there are a troubling number of young people opting for suicide or increasing cases of youth problems like alcoholism and drug abuse.
Many unlucky Bhutanese children both in urban and rural areas face a harrowing and traumatic childhood.
A child at home may be subject to parents who are abusive, drink, fight, have affairs and ultimately divorce to create broken homes. At school the child is subject to an education system that is yet to be child friendly with teachers also abusing them. In the playground or after school the child will encounter more like him angry and violent and so children end up joining gangs to feel safe and also be part of a group of sorts.
Bhutanese society laments the rise of youth problems when society itself is blind to the various conditions created by it that gives rise to such youth problems.
An added problem is globalization and the ‘junk’ elements of western culture spread by a combination of growing economic prosperity and more international exposure. It is very important that for a very western and modern cultural problem of alcoholism, drug abuse, and gangs the solution is also equally modern and scientific. Traditional or religious solutions that children cannot identify with or are not relevant to them will be on no help. Similarly demonizing western culture as bad is also a regressive step for any modern nation. The need is for modern counselors, child psychologists, modern educationists, drug and alcohol rehabilitation experts etc.
Ultimately youth is nothing but a reflection of our society. In urban areas the rich children are spoilt from an early age with parents bowing to every wish and demand attempting to replace responsible parenting with material gifts. Many among the youth see a society that is not sympathetic to them or does to recognize them and hence they seek out their own groups. Children from broken homes or troubled families suffer from deep insecurities and emotional trauma that has an impact on the quality of their lives and their emotional growth.
Parents that are more interested in archery matches, gambling, extra-marital affairs and bars than their children have no one else to blame but themselves for how their children turn out.
Our schools and education system should recognize these ills and instead of perpetuating further abuse in schools should try and create a healthy and safe haven where learning is not equated to punishment and more fear.
The need of the times is love, understanding and patience not sticks, syringes and beatings.
Besides parents and teachers an important element in the partnership to solve youth problems is the government.
The government overall through policies, laws and resources has to create a more conducive environment for children. So far there is little to show that the government is taking Bhutan’s growing youth problem seriously or even coming up with effective solutions, apart from just talking about it or making policies on paper.
For e.g. there is also little or no public space for the youth. Every possible open space is converted into an archery field, youth centers becomes commercial enterprises and ultimately the rough streets and sleazy bars are all that is left.