|Picture: Bhutan Observer|
Once upon a time, we ate bongkharang (dried wheat used as food grains) in our schools. Teachers served us every meal. Those who served us more bongkharang would become our favourite teachers, not those who taught better. The teacher’s announcement of ‘second share’ would lead to a near-stampede in the dining hall. In the mad rush, some younger pupils would get jostled to the ground. Every Saturday, we would be led to a nearby stream in a ceremonial line for ‘washing’. Every few months, our heads would be shaved clean. Everything seemed ritualistic. It was during bongkharang time.
In those days, teachers took care of children more than parents, especially in the remote areas. Now, since parents are more exposed and educated, teachers have a smaller role and government no longer has to buy shaving blades and soaps for children. While we might think that our children today are in more secure hands of their parents, the instances of children going astray are more today than in those days.
In those days, Marijuana plants grew aplenty on the campus, but we knew it only as a food for pigs. We associated nyozey (intoxicating substance) with alcohol only. Substance abuse was little known to us until we got more exposed to the outside world.
Now, the bongkharang days are long gone. Our parents are better educated and children, more exposed. Life is easier and travels are faster. New things are more readily available and are within the reach of our income. With all the new developments, undesirable trends have crept in. Even as we debate the perceived declining quality of education, substance abuse among our school children is increasing. Today, nyozey has taken on many frightening new dimensions. This is why, there is a sense of insecurity in the society if marijuana plants grow in abundance. And dendrite, traditionally used as an adhesive, is sold with suspicion. Marijuana and dendrite are, though, not as big a problem as other substances.
It is a pity if the children of the first generation of western-educated parents go so miserably astray. Is it because of exposure? Is it because of lack of guidance? It is because of both as well as because of many other reasons. Youth is the most vulnerable stage of life. It is euphoric and volatile, innocent and credulous. Any positive or negative influence will have a powerful and lasting impact on youth. Therefore, positive influence, guidance, and support are crucial.
We know how much we love our children. But we do not know whether we are as caring as we are loving. Some children get too much love that they are pampered and spoilt while others who do not get any lose the sense of direction. If every parent took responsibility for his or her own children’s overall well-being, there would be no need for the government to build rehabilitation centres or carry out advocacy campaigns. What could our parents be doing when our children spend hours in marijuana bushes? And what could they be doing when some of the children die due to drug overdose? Our parents can, though, do only their part. Society as a whole has a bigger role to play. The death of an 18-year-old boy in Phuentsholing a few days back takes the number of drug overdose deaths in the town alone to five this year. What about drug-related deaths in other 19 dzongkhags?
If we generalise the Phuentsholing case and deduce the per capita drug-related affliction in a small population like ours, it would come to a frightening figure! And that on top of the alarming rate of increase in HIV/Aids infection, prostitution, abortion, domestic violence, murder, choeten robbery, break-ins, vehicle accidents, and a host of other social problems. Our government is doing all it can to prevent, or at least curb, these social evils. But much more is there to be done.
For example, drug-related problems are there not only in Phuentsholing. They are as rampant in our interior dzongkhags like Bumthang and Mongar. How do the banned substances travel through many security check posts? It is difficult to understand why security check posts across the country routinely check the public transport buses and not private vehicles. It seems absurd that humble passengers of public transport buses are thoroughly frisked and their loads, comprising mostly smelly cheese or meat, are meticulously inspected. It is not to say that buses should not be put under rigorous inspections, but that private cars should not be let through.
As the national graduate orientation is going on, BBS TV has caught up with some of our graduates and let us know some of their views and dreams. But, even as some of them display a sense of maturity in their views and opinions, some of them have been caught abusing drugs. Nothing can be more degenerating than this. Our graduates are the cream of our youth, and if there is any promise the nation can look forward to fulfilling, it should be them. If they lose the sense of direction, our hope can be betrayed.
It is not long since our schools stopped getting bongkharang donated by other countries through the UN. We are just beginning to sustain ourselves on our own kharang (ground maize grains). It is a big challenge, particularly if our youth are not strong in mind and body.