(2) Mass participation in educational programs for wholesome development
Educational programs such as scouting, dancing, sports, culture, cleaning campaign, community policing, so on are organized for wholesome development of students at all levels. One of the objectives for organizing these activities is to engage students so that they keep away from anti-social and unlawful acts. But on the contrary youth violence continues with the involvement of students.
What I notice is, that already good students participate in these activities making them better. Schools also select good students to represent them in regional and national competitions, further depriving those who need attention. In higher education institutions like colleges there are dozens of clubs, societies, forums, units for which the participation and membership is based on the students’ interest.
We also know some students who are into substance abuse and need attention and engage them productively. What surprises us is that most of these students do not come forward to join these activities. They always try to find time to engage in these unproductive activities. I believe these back benchers need more attention. There is a need to revisit how the extra and co-curricular activities are organized at all levels so that the intended purpose is realized. Strategies should ensure the breaking of boundaries to reach the unreached and cater services to the neediest individuals.
(3) Employment and gainful engagement
One of the alleged causes for criminal activities is unemployment. This can be true to some extent but it needs a systematic study to establish the claim. One of the reasons why some may not fully subscribe to the claim is the involvement of school and college students who do not fall under the unemployed category. All the employment agencies: Ministry of Labor and Human Resources (MoLHR), Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), other Ministries, Corporate Agencies, Private Companies should cooperate and collaborate to address youth issues which is a national concern.
All means should be explored so that there is no one left without employment, even at the cost of compromising some rigid elements in the existing recruitment rules and regulations. Internationally, the eligible age for employment is 18 years, someone below this is still a child, and child labor is illegal. If educational institutions have done their part I believe the work of employment agencies’ become easier.
If all the school and college graduates cannot be employed in regular status, strategies should be explored to at least engage them gainfully for an interim period. It might be worth to institute Social Welfare Schemes for unemployed individuals through three modalities:
(1) by paying them daily subsistence for certain period of time (may be up to 12 months) while they should look for employment; (2) government to give grants to those prospective employing agencies; and (3) establish a public-private partnership (PPP) to employ youth or those looking for employment. The relevant government agencies namely trade and customs can exempt taxes or any other levies from those private or corporate firms which takes in more employees in addition to their staffing pattern.
There is always something to do for any number of employees provided there is good leadership.
One might argue that these ideas would waste resources by employing more people than is necessary. But the counter argument is that the government anyway spends a lot on law enforcement agencies, medical facilities, detention centers, etc. In the final analysis the cost to the nation might be the same or less. At the same time we will not have a flawed society.
The MoLHR must be commended for taking initiatives to reduce unemployment rates. But some more radical approaches could be attempted to resolve the pending issues.
Maintain personal data base of those who seek employment, chase them whether or not they apply when there are job vacancy announcements. Something should be done if they make too many choices at the cost of remaining unemployed including having to repay the subsistence paid through the welfare scheme.
Farming is a case in point. It is a fact that hectares of cultivable land across the country remain fallow. Once rich paddy fields are now meadow where cattle graze, what were once large flat potato growing areas are now forests. It is not because our farmers are lazy; there are simply not many people.
Our education system has facilitated in sending village children farther away from their ancestral homes.
Attending Primary Education moves them a few hours from their homes; progressing to Secondary Education take them few days farther from their family; and availing Tertiary Education opportunities takes them still farther away, never to return. The point is not about children getting education, but training the unemployed youths in farming and mechanized farming. Those who are interested and those who wait too long looking for employment should be asked to practice farming. We do not say it is their job but “social service while waiting”. Pay them well and share a part of the sale of the products.
To some this approach might sound like communism and the communist way of doing, but if it is helpful, it is worth trying out. Let’s make use of large flat lands in Bumthang, Sarpang, Trashigang, Samdrup Jongkhar, Pemagatshel and elsewhere. Let’s grow those crops that would sell well within Bhutan, in India, and in the region. Try sugarcane, fruits, and all kinds of vegetables, why not become the champion of all-season greens. The expertise and involvement of our RNR-RCs would be handy. Much has been done by the Ministry of Agriculture and we see encouraging results especially in the dairy and livestock products. We also know acres of cultivable land next to some RNR-RCs are getting fast covered with shrubs.
The nation was once informed about the plan of producing hundreds of educated/literate skilled construction workers after undergoing VTI’s training programs. There was also the idea of venturing into contract works in construction companies in other countries where the workforce of this category is in demand especially if our country cannot employ them or the graduates do not prefer working in Bhutan. I believe this proposition still holds value. An author on change, Belding says, “If you have to swallow a frog, it’s a good idea if you don’t stare at it for too long”.
….. to be continued
The writer is the
Director, Sherubtse College