The Vice Principal, Ugyen Wangchuk (39), who was recently arrested for allegedly molesting 9 school children and attempting to rape one in a charity primary school in Bjemina, had been convicted for a similar case back in 2004 when he was a government school teacher in a government school in Trashigang.
According to the RBP the government school in question had charged him in court and the court had convicted for a term of five years under the then Thrimzhung Chenmo which was the legal code before the Penal Code of Bhutan.
However, the vice principal at the time got out after paying Thrim-thue.
Given that the crime was a fourth degree felony Ugyen seems to have got his No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the RBP after a year of his release, which is the norm.
This meant that there was no record of his offence, which future schools hiring him could check on.
The vice principal after his conviction in 2004 was terminated by the ministry of education and so lost his job as a government teacher.
However, the education ministry also does not have any record of him or his crime as an official at the ministry said that they don’t keep records after 10 years.
With his record wiped clean the vice principal got access to being a teacher at a private school in Thimphu after which he joined the charity primary school in Bjemina in 2011.
The school in Bjemina hired him on the basis of no NOC problems, recommendation from his previous school in Thimphu and government certificates commending him for helping prepare for the 2008 Coronation celebrations.
Though the vice principal had been convicted for a similar offence in 2004 and even lost his job for it, there was no way of knowing for the subsequent schools hiring him exposing loopholes in the NOC system as well as the Education records system.
While Ugyen Wangchuk was terminated in 2004 he was still allowed to retain his NIE certificate on the basis of which he got future teaching jobs.
In the absence of any child sex offender or sex offenders’ registry system in Bhutan, present in in many western countries, there is no way to know or prevent an old offender from getting close to children and committing the same offence again.
In western countries a registry of sex offenders is maintained and accessed by the police and depending on the severity of the crime the offenders are kept on the list and monitored by the law enforcement. Measures are also taken to ensure that the person does not have access to children or is in a position to re-offend again.
This issue may also bring to the fore the need to license teachers so that teachers who lose their licenses for such heinous behavior cannot teach again, even after they receive their NOC.
As per the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004, section 203, a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of child molestation, if the defendant molests a child and section 204 states that, the offence of child molestation shall be a felony of the fourth degree which is above three years to under five years.
Meanwhile, issuing a condemnation the Education Minister Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said, “We strongly condemn the heinous and unacceptable conduct of a member of the teaching fraternity causing serious distress to the students and their families”.
Lyonpo also said that, while the recent incident at the private school cannot be condoned, it must also be treated as an aberration and requested the public not to generalize this despicable behavior of a teacher to all the hardworking principals and teachers.
In addition, Lyonpo said that, while the Ministry has a robust teacher recruitment system in government schools, this incident has revealed gaps in the recruitment process of teachers in the private schools.
“The Ministry has therefore commissioned a review of teacher recruitment system in the private schools,” Lyonpo added.
The Ministry has arranged counseling sessions for all the students and others affected by the incident and the students are already attending their regular classes. “We hope that they will make their journey of recovery positively and fast,” said Lyonpo.