29 December 2012

Do You Remember Those Stories?

Dear Parents,
Do you remember those stories your parents told you about talking animals and trees? Those good verse evil stories? Those happily ever after stories, before you sleep? Do you in any way believe that those nights of story telling had influence your relationship with your parents and also had shaped your outlook on life?
Do you want your relationship with your children to be like your relationship with your parents? Well, things have become complicated now but there is always a turning point for everything, and I believe if we can win over our children before the world of digital entertainment invade them, perhaps we can establish that same loving relationship.
Tell them those fairy tales before they sleep and let them live their innocent years innocently. Let them love their parents more than Cartoon Network, let them count on you for stories. But if you don't remember those stories your parents told you, let me introduce you to a loving daughter who grew up listening to her mother's stories and now telling those stories to her children every night- Chador Wangmo. She is a teacher and she strongly believes in telling stories and therefore written four Books for children.
The books are on sale in stores in Thimphu and you can also order by leaving a comment on this blog. If these four books run well she will be inspired to write many more such books for our children.
This new year I recommend you to buy these four little books and tell stories to your children. The illustrations are done by a fellow blogger and loving father Kinzang Tshering (Qinza).

Chador's Series
Note: Chador Wangmo is one of our favorites on Nopkin and also WAB. If you are on those two Bhutanese Writing sites you will be curious to know who she was, and I bet you will blindly buy those book if I disclose her pen name. Perhaps next time!

27 December 2012

Losing True Wisdom

I have witnessed many elderly civil servants retiring from their jobs because they have reached the retirement age inscribed in Civil Service Rule of Bhutan, and I was with the notion that it's a right thing to create space for the younger generation who would bring about newer and efficient ways of working.
18 Dec 2012, His Last Day in Bajo
But last month when Mr. PKB announced his retirement I was deeply saddened and shocked. By rule his has become old enough to retire but in school he was enjoying the best years of his career. His age is neither visible on him physically nor in his professional performances.
He traveled from India in 1978, even before my parents got married, and became a primary teacher in our country. Ever since he traveled back rarely and on two occasions he returned with his head shaved- when his lost his father and mother. Now he has no more reasons to go to India because in last 34 years in Bhutan he has made Bhutan his home.
 In 1997 he was transferred to Bajothang School where he taught High School for the first time. But a man of his wisdom could not only overcome new changes but also conquer them; he became one of the best known high school Maths teachers in the country.
He was among the dozen teachers who began Bajothang school in 1997 and have been serving in this school for last fifteen years during which he transformed the lives of thousands of Bhutanese people either academically or humanely.
When I heard about his resignation I ran to him and suggested him about writing to ministry for extension of his contract, but he shook my hands and asked me, "How long can it be extended?"
He had already applied to a private school that was more than honoured to welcome him, because he was known for his dedication and work ethics. He was happy to go where he was wanted and I was happy for him. But for Bajothang School and for the Education Ministry it's a big loss, and our policies need a serious revisit.
I am not qualified enough to talk about the general civil service but when it comes to teaching family I have observed that older the teacher gets better he becomes in terms of knowledge and wisdom, and for teachers like Mr. PKB students die to learn from him. But because we have mixed teaching with general civil service we are losing teachers when they have acquired so much to give. Looking at how renowned universities across the world take pride in their old professors, our system is making fools of itself by not investing in our reputed teachers.
Compulsory retirement age is set perhaps to create more employment intakes capacity for younger generation but in teaching system we are in permanent shortage of manpower and I am surprised we are letting go the most ripened teachers from our family.
Bajothang will miss this great maths teacher but we are happy he will continue to teach in Bhutan for many good years of his life.

26 December 2012

Its's Seriously Winter in Thimphu

Having lived all my life away from Thimphu and having been just a visitor on rare occasions, the most I know about life in Thimphu was on Facebook and Twitter. Keeping aside the occasional crime news, Thimphu seemed like a nice place to come, with popular musicians playing in popular pubs, intellectuals gathering over coffee, artists putting exhibitions, young entrepreneurs polishing their dreams, etc. 
Thimphu wakes up!

I have come here on a paid vacation of twenty days and I thought I would live the Thimphu life to the fullest this winter, but here I realized that all the glamour on Facebook are frozen. It was best left on Facebook. By the time I lock my classroom in the evening it's already dark, and there is hardly anything left outdoor. 
And without my family waiting at home I feel no rush to go home any sooner, so I drive around to see Thimphu at night with heater on, and soon I convince myself that there is nothing there to see at all. Then I retire to my sister's place and wrap myself up in blankets until dinner and watch UFC after dinner till I doze off. And the next morning is another painful experience...

Changlimithang Stadium at Night

Tashichodzong at Sunrise

I miss Wangdue already, because it's not the place that makes life interesting, I realized, it's the way we live that makes the place interesting, and the way we live in Wangdue is the best way to lead a life...

21 December 2012

Letter to my Class XI IT Students

Dear Kinley Dorji, Thinley Jamtsho, Pema Dorji, Tenzin Jamtsho, Nim Dorji, Tashi Dorji, Purni Maya, and Karma Dema, (See in picture)
I hope all eight of you received the message I passed around on 18 December. It was about your winter IT assignment. I wanted to meet you personally to discuss this topic for your winter assignment but by the time I knew some of you were long gone after taking your results.
The topic is not quite from your syllabus but by now you must have realized it too that your Computer Studies syllabus is highly traditional, and unsuitable for our age and time. Therefore, I want you to create a personal blog each and keep record of your winter activities in it. Your blog is the first thing I wish to see when you rejoin the school next year in XII.

Where is Pema Dorji? 2011 XI IT Students!
I don't know if you have read this news report: "Computer students unable to find jobs in Bhutan" in The Bhutanese newspaper last week(?) but I wasn't surprised at all. I only hope you are not discouraged.

to be continued still...

15 December 2012

Look who's BNB Model?

I took that picture of my daughter and posted on Facebook, but I seriously have no idea how it made it to BNB Piggy Bank Ad.
It's cute to see her next to Piggy Bank posing like trained model with generous smile, O' there is a coin photoshoped in her hand.  But I would suggest BNB to seek approval from parents next time they do anything like this, because it's my daughter and my picture and I deserved to be asked. But this time I must admit I have nothing but good feelings about it.

BNB Official Ad (Seen on Facebook Page and Website)

12 December 2012

What Lomba Means to the People of Western Bhutan

Smelling 2012 Hoentey
Lomba is the single most important annual celebration in the two western Dzongkhags of Haa and Paro and this year interestingly it fell on 12/12/12, the date many people are looking at with great emotions. I grew in village and I have been part of Lomba celebration throughout my childhood. Every year on this day I become child again, and without feasting on Hoentey I can't get my hands on anything, that's why I am blogging so late today. I drove to Punakha and had my 2012 lomba hoentey from my aunti's hand.
Haaps, as I know, are very dumb working people who would spend best portion of their lives working and they don't celebrate many occasion rest of the Bhutanese do, but Lomba is an exception and perhaps the sum total of all celebrations. Our forefather must have found it wiser to celebrate many occasions in one so that we could save time for work for the rest of the days in the year.

  1. Lomba is our New Year: We sing Lolay Lolay rhyme, thank god for the good year we had and make wishes for the new year. We greet each other Lolay, meaning good new year. We perform a small ceremony at home to drive of the evil and bring in the health, happiness and prosperity for new year. Tonight my young brother is performing this ceremony at home. I miss it so bad.
  2. Lomba is our Thruelbub (Blessed Rainy Day): We clean every corner of our house, wash every piece of cloth, and every member of the family take their turn for menchu (hot stone bath). The importance of this annual cleansing is considered as much as rest of Bhutan considers Thrulbub. It's no more a new thing to do that, it's part of daily chore for most families nowadays, but there were time when Lomba cleansing used to be our annual event. River would turn dark with our dirt. Everybody seemed to have removed a thick layer of skin from their faces. O' those days!
  3. Lomba is our Common Birthday: Every Haap considers themselves one year older after lomba. It's was only after the new Citizenship ID card was issued that people realized the importance of their own birthdays, before then lomba was our common birthday. A baby born days before lomba would be consider two years old after lomba because we count nine months in womb as a year as well. Our folks seem to enjoy the idea of growing old fast so much. Happy birthday to all my folks.
  4. Lomba is our Food Festival: The signature food of Haa, and also the central piece of Lomba is our Hoentey. It's our pride and the it's perhaps the only dish from our region known across the country. Lomba is the day we consider so auspicious to prepare out best food and feast on it. Some families make thousands of hoentey to be presented as gift to friends and families across the country. 
  5. Lomba is our Annual Family Gathering: On lomba parents expect all their children to leave aside everything and join the rest of the member of the annual gathering. Well this part makes me emotional and damn guilty. I always want to leave aside everything and run home on this day but this is my third damn year that I haven't been able to make it. This is the only time I hate my job, because my job has kept me away. I know how my mother is feeling about it, I only wish she sees me through and understand how much I wish to be home tonight.
Lolay, lolay, to all my readers, friends and family, near and far. If you are nearby please join me in two days to taste my mother's hoentey, she is sending me hoentey day after tomorrow. Lolay, Lolay!

11 December 2012

Unfairer than Exam

Exams are already unfair enough in measuring the worth of a child and this big wide world couldn't yet find a wiser way. Now imagine teachers committing mistakes in either correcting answers or in calculating marks. This is not an assumption, it happens often because one teacher has to deal with at least hundred papers within a given time frame. We have realized we are capable of so many errors during the so many mid term exams, when we return the answer scripts to the children. They come to us and show how we have wronged their right answers, or didn't correct one whole page or forgot to count 10 marks, etc.
But it's not late, we do rectify our mistakes and do the required changes in their marks before we finally submit their marks to their class teacher for making result. But what about during the annual exams? Won't we make mistakes anymore? Mistakes happens unintentionally but is it fair to let students pay for our mistakes?
Our school has adopted a 'paper giving' day after annual exam two years ago. We call back our students on 10th December to return their answer scripts so that they can crosscheck if we have overlooked anything at all. And yesterday we followed our annual culture. Some students didn't turn up, perhaps they don't yet know that their teacher could make mistakes.
I am very happy to admit that the 'paper giving' culture made a huge difference this year which made me write this post. There are many forgivable errors in counting, obvious as always but in one subject 25 questions of 2 marks each were marked for just 1 mark each and in another subject due to a mistake in model answer whole class's paper needed re-correction. I am proudly admitting mistakes in my school because we have left room for correction, and we have made corrections.
What would have happened to so many students if we had followed the traditional culture? What must be happening to so many students across the country where there is no paper giving day? Does your school have it? Please look into it if you don't have because we can make mistakes, and students should not pay for our mistakes.

09 December 2012

Dawa's Coffee

You know I don't leave any chance to express my appreciation to anybody at anytime, and last night we spotted BBS anchor Dawa outside our regular café. He was busy on his phone while we discovered that both the families in the café were his fans. Café owner asked me to invite him in for a cup of coffee and she had already ordered her kitchen.
It was very late and Dawa was still on phone and I was waiting for him to finish. The moment he finished, which was after a long time, I ran to him and asked him in for a cup of coffee with his fans. He politely decline the coffee but joined me into the café. We were all standing and introducing and telling him that we were his fans. He looked as nervous as we were. His phone started ringing but he silenced it to spare a little more time with us. It rang again and he silenced it again. I knew he had to go, he was only trying not to be rude by walking out so I thanked him and showed him out.
After he was gone we were talking about him outside when group of men appeared from next building which houses the Karaoke. Dawa was among them. And all of a sudden another Dawa appeared from behind- same height, same face. It was his twin brother Nima (for your kind information and necessary reaction next time). Now we were embarrassed fearing if it was the real Dawa we invited in. Kezang was paranoid because she didn't know Dawa had a twin and thought it was an illusion. Thank god they were wearing different coats unlike many twins, and I confirmed we had caught the right Dawa. He came to us and said 'good night' before he left.
Then the café chef brought a cup of coffee which was actually for Dawa, and I drank it. 

06 December 2012

Ruddy Shelduck- the Ill treated Guest in Bhutan

Today I went to photograph the migratory ducks on the sands of the Punatshangchu river with my family. I have seen them year after year and admired them since I know a little about them. It was at this time of the year my class teacher in junior school would ask me to join him down to the Paa Chhu in Paro to photograph these ducks. Mr. Karma Wangchuk, a born naturalist and self taught artist, is an encyclopedia of birds, plants, butterflies, and animals and has great love for nature. He now teaches in Paro College of Education. He told me about this bird that flies from Tibet to spend their winter with us like the famous black necked crane. The duck is known as Ruddy Shelduck and it's found along the banks of the Punatshangchu at this time of the year.
The Sands of Punatshangchhu
However, ruddy shelduck is not as fortunate as black necked cranes because they are not yet endangered. They are among the least concerned category of birds since there are plenty of them across the world. Perhaps the way we are treating this birds might explain why so many birds are already extinct or endangered.
Ruddy Shelduck in Punatshangchu
They are our winter guest as much as Black necked cranes are but they are left to their own fate. There are posters talking about conservation of herons and cranes but this bird is pushed aside.

They are preyed by wild dogs and there are also rumors of construction workers finding it easier to hunt duck then to buy chicken. With increasing number of workers in Wangdue the fate is this visiting bird is further doomed.
Group of Ruddy Shelduck basking in the sun
If we had records, we might discover that the sands along with Punatshangchu river were their homes long before we knew the sand could be used for construction but now our aggressive and indiscriminate excavation of sand has made them homeless. We are not even waiting for the water to dry up to excavate sand, hundreds of truckloads are carried away everyday. Soon the water will dry up in the place where the ducks are sitting now and then the trucks will come there, where would the birds go? They have come to spend their whole winter here.

The Ducks Flying over Trucks and Dozers 
Riverbed filled with machines 
Every guest coming to Bhutan goes back happy but we are forgetting to be Bhutanese with this poor guest.

05 December 2012

Riyang Books: Bhutan's Own Penguin

In high school and college I would pick a book in library and even when I loved the title and author I would still look for the little penguin on the cover to agree with my choice. That penguin to me was the hallmark of best literature, I don't know why I felt that way, but it always proved right.
The Little Penguin
I read many stories of struggle and watched movies of great people who went through lot of rejections before they became who they are but when I actually met some publishers no inspiration saved me from throwing away my manuscript and forgetting my dream of becoming a writer in Bhutan. I was then in college and fully in love with my short stories but overnight I knew I could never become one in Bhutan.
I discovered that the big names of publishers I saw and heard were not actually the kind of publishers I romanticized, they are not lovers of literature and books, they don't have editors, they don't even read your stories (could they even read?), they are just publishers in strictly technical terms. They are mere contractors who make money out of printing bills, cash memos, calendars, and any government documents they get. The only books they are interested in publishing are guide-books and solved-question-papers because these sell well among students.
Now, we have a Penguin of our own, Riyang Books is just launched and I am already calling it Penguin without a doubt. It's the answer to my long forgotten question: Why don't a literature lover become a publisher? Riyang Books is founded by one of Bhutan's foremost writers, known across the world for her novel Circle of Karma, Ashi Kunzang Choden and her family. With the birth of this publisher I can already see the possibility of becoming a writer if you have the gift of writing, and I also feel secured that no rubbish will be published.
This's this Sign!
I welcome Riyang Books with hopes and dreams, that someday I see shelves of Bhutanese authors with that blue Riyang Books logo, and that I can just pick any book from Riyang with the assurance that it will be a wonderful book.

Follow Riyang Books on Twitter @riyangbooks
Visit them @ www.riyangbooks.com/

04 December 2012

City with Disability

It hurts to hear that there are over 25,000 Bhutanese living with disabilities, it hurts because though supposedly a compassionate society Bhutan is also superstitious and has lot of stigma. Many spend their lives in hiding either by choice or by force from the family. Those choosing to come out in open and live normal lives are confronted with countless challenges of which one is the structural unfriendliness, which is easily avoidable.
Friendly office
There are hardly any toilets, any building, stairs, street or buses friendly enough for a disabled person to comfortably use in Bhutan. Even the streets in Capital city has no provision for even a wheelchair and therefore it's as good as Thimphu banning disabled people from coming out on street. Disability happens without a choice, but when it comes to building structures we have choices. 
Friendly Transport
We speak thousand good words and print thousand touching pictures of disabled people to awaken the society and remove stigma, and the result could be as theoretical as the process is. One wheelchair friendly street could speak more than those thousand words, one bus with seat for disabled persons could show more than thousand pictures, because words and pictures won't quite practically help people with disability move on street and travel in buses.

Friendly Shopping places

Friendly streets
For now our able-society with able-planners and able-engineers could only come up with cities with disability; city that are absolutely unfriendly to our disabled fellow. 
I join the world to celebrate the International Day of People with Disability with all my heart!

29 November 2012

My Daughter Becomes 3

The Attitude Pose- Nov 2012
This day in 2009 was a Sunday and Kezang knew our child was going to come ahead of due date. We went to Sunday market in the morning, then to town to prepare for the new member in the family. She cooked for us and packed stuffs for the hospital and by 9 PM our child made a loud entry into this world. It was a daughter.
The excitement of becoming father didn't die in these three years, often I look at my little girl and exclaim, 'wow, I am a father', and that good feeling brings lot of energy. Becoming father was the beginning of becoming a better man, it was another chance in life to look at the world through an innocent eye. The next phase of me was born with my daughter and we grew together.
She is growing into a beautiful girl like her mother, and everybody is happy that she didn't resemble me but I have more than one ugly part; I was the naughtiest and wildest child ever born in my family. Therefore I am never angry with my daughter though she is turning into something Kezang can't believe. Kezang only heard about my childhood, now she is getting to see me through our child.

Miss Bhutan Pose!
Apart from being extremely naughty, my daughter is very smart with technology. She can amaze people with how she can play around with iPad since she was two. Now she is more on YouTube and surprising us with her new crying, screaming, talking and punching styles. She can already run us down from ABC to Z, and 123 till somewhere less than 20. She spends much of her time on either movies on computer or on YouTube. She is very fond of singing and recording her own performances on camera. One thing that makes her even more special is her ability to sing Zhundra. The only song my mother taught me was Naychoe Dongkala, which I sang to my daughter when putting her to sleep. Amazingly she caught not only the tune but also the entire lyrics of the classic song. She would sing that in karaoke and other public places because she knows that gains her lot of attention which she enjoys.
The down side of having a tech-loving daughter is having to spare half of the computer screen for her movie. She is never enough with 'The Gods Must be Crazy' series. I had to reschedule all my works just to make room for my daughter but she leaves me not a single hour of peace, thus I wait till midnight, which is when she finally sleeps, and wake early in the morning to buy myself some extra hours.

We sit on same computer(Ninzi's Half- PaSsu's Half)
She loves going to birthday parties, but she thinks she has the right to blow the candles on any birthday cakes. Part of being a father is fighting with other kids to get pink balloons for my daughter in all the birthday parties. But tonight she will have a cake of her own with candles she can blow and pink balloons she can have without her father having to fight for it.
Happy Birthday Darling, you are three now!

23 November 2012

"Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours"

I loved the movie The Lady because I celebrate Aung San Suu Kyi and I celebrate her bravery. I idolized her ever since I knew about her in high school. I felt proud when later in college I discovered that the brave lady spent some time in Bhutan during her happier days along with her husband Michael Aris

Aung San on her way to Paro Taktshang, Bhutan

The Lady is a biographical movie of Suu's life, of her bravery, of democracy that ran in her blood, and of ultimate sacrifice, she, her husband, and the Burmese people made for democracy in Burma. This movie made me understand why Aung San Suu Kyi was not with her dying husband in his last days, which otherwise kept bothering me and my love for the lady. However, the man who took care of Michael Aris till his last breath was a Bhutanese student by the name Karma. I knew he was Bhutanese from Dasho Kunzang Wangdi (@KunzangW) on Twitter and also that he is now in Bhutan. It made me so proud. 

(Update 2021: I now know the Bhutanese student Karma is celebrated scholar Dr Karma Phuntsho, the founder of Loden Foundation and author of The History of Bhutan.)
Michael Aris in Bhutan

The movie ends with an unforgettable quotation from Aung San Suu Kyi, that must have made difference in her struggle for freedom;
"Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours"
This line kept repeating in my head for days and brought about a sense of guilt of being free and not having done anything for those who are struggling for freedom. Now that Burma has seen the light, I wish to take this line and use it on behalf of other oppressed people.

21 November 2012

The Freedom Writers Diaries- A Movie for Teachers

A blogger friend and fellow teacher, Ugyen Dechen sent me two movies. One was The Lady, biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, which Dechen reviewed in her blog last October and the other one was surprisingly The Freedom Writers. I was craving for this movie ever since some friends talked about it, and there it was in the pen drive Dechen sent me.

This is yet another movie that touched my soul. Just last month I watched The Ron Clark Story which Monu sent me, and here is another one shaping the teacher in me. The Free Writers is a 2007 American Drama adapted from the best selling book The Freedom Writers Diaries (1999) by the teacher in the story herself, Erin Gruwell.
The Real Ms Erin Gruwell- The Teacher, The Writer

She takes up the job of teaching English on Long Island at 23. She is put into a class, which is almost a war zone where children nearly of her age and a lot bigger than her size are divided by racial hatred. These children walk with guns in the pockets and bitterness in their hearts, looking for any chance to start a fight. They come from a community that is divided into gangs and has a bloody history.
The Freedom Writers Diary (The Book)

How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them is a non-fiction 1999 book written by The Freedom Writers, a group of students from ...Wikipedia
Published: 1999
Author: Erin Gruwell
Original language: English
Genre: Non-fiction
Adaptations: Freedom Writers

Freedom Writers (The Movie)
Freedom Writers is a 2007 American drama film starring Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, Imelda Staunton and Patrick Dempsey. Wikipedia
Release date: January 5, 2007 (initial release)
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Screenplay: Richard LaGravenese
Story by: Erin Gruwell, Freedom Writers
Producers: Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Danny DeVito

Our problems are nothing compared to what Ms Gruwell faces, she teaches in a classroom filled with resentments, where every careless word every minute starts up a fight. Her initial efforts to unite the divided class ends up making herself another enemy for them. The turning point in the story is a cartoon of a thick-lipped black boy passed around in the classroom that catches the attention of Ms Gruwell. Deeply saddened by the racism in the classroom she relates that cartoon with the cartoons of big-nosed Jews drawn by the biggest gang ever. She tells them about how that gang hated other races and divided countries and how that ended up in holocaust, taking away the lives of 6 million Jews.

Surprisingly, except for one, none in the huge class ever heard of the Holocaust. Ms Gruwell then goes looking for reading materials but the school denies her any book. She takes up two other part-time jobs to afford Diary of Ann Frank for her students, but in her personal life, her extra involvement with her class costs her own marriage.

The book does magic to her children, each could relate their lives to that of Anne Frank and the story made them realize how much hatred could destroy. Ms Gruwell takes her kids to the Holocaust Museum to see what Nazi and their hatred for Jews has done. She further invites Miep Gies, the lady who hid Ann Frank in her attic, to talk to her students. Lady Miep Gies shares about how she did what was right and she tells the kids that anybody can do what she has done, therefore everybody is a hero.

Ms Gruwell gives every child a notebook to start their own diary and every child writes about their lives, which is later compiled into a book by Ms Gruwell and calls it The Freedom Writers Diaries. This connected me so much to the movies because besides being a teacher I also love writing my diary. And you are reading my freedom diary.

The Real Freedom Writers

A lesson to teachers in Bhutan: We all begin our teaching lives at about the same age as Ms Erin Gruwell but we are lucky to walk in any classroom and have our students standing up in respect. She faces cynicism for her passion, she is denied of support, her successes are criticized and she is deprived of basic resources like library books, yet nothing stops her, then why should anything stop us?

Anne Frank, The book I am reading next!

17 November 2012

Who will take the Broken Glass?

Last week we got to see a few Bhutanese entrepreneurs who made living on waste business, whose business has moral beyond money. I would like to congratulate Karma Yonten for his visionary Greener Way. He has made it his moral responsibility to take care of our waste while the rest of us wait for the government to handle it.
Last month a few people from some organizations came to talk to us on waste management, and they enlightened us on how we could locally do what Greener Way is doing in Thimphu. I asked them about the Broken Glasses and they said it has no commercial market, therefore it goes to Landfill. That didn't surprise me because I knew it already, but I at least expected them to have a better suggestion.
Then I asked if they would fund a project that would make use of Glass waste and create commercial market right here in the country, to which they said they have no considered that yet. Which means they only bank on stuff that will sell, and not on making things sell. This is very Bhutanese in nature.
I know Greener Way has done so much to demand any more from them, but I also know a young engineer who has tried to use glasses in concrete (Ask him how he was going to do that). He has done a project on this and even went meeting people but he gave up on the way because he only received warm doubts, and cold cynicism from people of whom he expected support. He was going to create commercial market for broken glasses but he realized we are only waiting for India to open up markets.

12 November 2012

Character Certificate Misunderstood and Abused

Schools hold Character Certificate of a child as hostage and demand ransom of good discipline from them. It's also used as the ultimate weapon of punishment. It's a confidential document that the child gets to see only when he leaves the school. Therefore, Character Certificate is misunderstood and abused. But the true intention of this life defining document was never spelled out and therefore this heavy paper weighed very light so far. It's now coming into the light with Educating for GNH spirit, it may take time but the greatest achievement is in having it started.
Because we were brought up in such environment we look at our children through the same belief that a child is worth his scores in his marksheet. The toppers are praised in school and at home, they are favorites of teachers and parents. Colleges want them, job markets await them. Of course, these children do deserve the massive attention they are receiving, there is no way we can afford to compromise that but we must realize that we are just looking at the academic intelligence and worse using that to measure children's worth.
His majesty always stressed on "Emotional Intelligence" when talking to children. Emotional Intelligence is not something we can find among high marks alone. Emotional Intelligence defines a good human being but by giving absolute importance to marksheet we are totally disregarding the true worth of our children. Character certificate, if used correctly, can not only acknowledge those emotionally intelligent kids but also groom the normal children into achieving that goodness.
Character Certificates contains 10 Personal Qualities, which defines an emotionally intelligent child.

  1. Leadership Quality
  2. Punctuality
  3. Honesty & Integrity
  4. Willingness to Adapt to Rules
  5. Respect for others
  6. Civic Sense
  7. Creativity
  8. Participation in activities
  9. Work Ethics
  10. Conduct

We have always seen and used this document but we have never known it well. Children should see and understand every personal quality with specified criteria (See the sample Rubrics) and given opportunity and motivation to build on those qualities.

Mark Sheet
Character Certificate
Measures academic performance
Identifies academically sound children
Guarantees a good Job
Measures Human values
Identifies good human being
Guarantees a good Life

The most painful question is, why invest so much in something that no one will even look at? That is something Educating for GNH going to change eventually, one day Marksheet and Character Certificate will weigh the same. This is a big change in system and mentality that requires lots of time to set up. The best place to begin is the schools. Schools can already start investing in human values in their little ways.

Current status of Character Certificate 
Expected Role of Character Certificate
It’s a confidential document
It’s marked once in a year
It’s marked at the end of the year
It threatens the children
It’s used as a weapon
Only bad character certificate has effect on the child’s career, good certificate go unnoticed.
It's a summative assessment.
It should be a mirror to the child on daily basis
It should be marked several times in a year
It should be marked in the beginning, middle and end of the year to motivate.
It should motivate children
It should be used as a guiding tool
Good Character certificates should  be given due importance
It should be Formative assessment.

With strong system in place Character Certificate can redefine that way human world functions; we will not only have the most intelligent people governing us but also the good human beings. Intelligence alone is only capable of making great stuffs like nuclear weapons, it takes emotional intelligence to build homes and make live saving drugs. 
This is what intelligence without emotion does!

08 November 2012

The Inner Search in Schools

When Meditation was first introduced in schools a few years ago, it was received with good humor. Students found it funny in the beginning and boring gradually. Most teachers never believed in it and some believers soon forgot it. I never really understood why this was happening. But I tried hard to advocate that it was to do with calming our mind and sharpening our focus on studies-which was how I vaguely understood and I discovered I wasn't fully wrong.
Meditation before the Evening Prayer in Bajothang
Now that I have the complete understanding of the intention behind introducing this in schools I would like to share it with my readers. It's a very simple ritual a school should follow whenever possible to give students a quite moment of calmness, in which they get time to be mindful. Mindfulness is the key in this practice. It's a known fact that nobody wants be bad, nobody wants be in trouble, but they land up being without their intention. And one bad thing leads to another. That's the result of not being mindful. We are always in rush.
Everybody has a choice at all times, we make many decisions every moment of our lives and our decisions shape us. While making those many decisions we have two voices talking to us from within our head, one is the good one and other is bad, but how many of us know which one to listen to?
That's what's happening to our students everyday, they don't want to land up in problem but they got into trouble by the wrong decisions they made. They didn't know they have picked on the wrong choice. Not many of us make right decisions at all times either. They need help. But no external help can solve your internal problem, how long can anyone rely on help considering the hundreds of decisions we have to make everyday. The help is right there within ourselves. We only have to focus and that focus comes from training our mind. That's why Meditation is brought to school, and I believe in it, because a mindful child will live a meaningful life.
There are different types and levels of meditation, please Google it. I picked on the simplest one and I am trying with my students every day and I have asked them to spare one minute every morning and evening for it. They know why they are doing this, and with them I am also in search the good voice myself. This could solve many of life's problems, this could be the answer to all the disciplinary problems in the school, and this could be the revolution against social problems, if at all we take it with genuine seriousness.

Note: Meditation in school has no connection with any religion, the only connection it has is with ones mind and therefore with ones life. 

05 November 2012

The Rights to Internet

The title "the Rights to Internet' might sound a little strange because it is neither from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 nor Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989. But considering the time the two were drafted, Internet couldn't have bothered those big brains. Now internet is a serious matter. It divides people as much as it connects them. You must have heard about internet connecting people from across the world, and must wonder where this 'dividing' thing emerges from.
We all know the difference between rich and poor, and we know what makes one rich and other poor. Through that same scale if we look at people in this information world we can see how poor some people are in comparison to others. I meet hundred students every day and I can notice the difference in the degree of smartness among them. The smart ones, the critical ones, and the confident ones are mostly the ones who are in my Facebook friend list. They are the lucky ones who are connected to the world through internet. They are divided from the ones who are not connected, and in the information world they are the rich ones exercising their dominance over the poor in the classroom. The same reason divides the rural students from the lucky urban brothers. Why should something that is easily available become a dividing factor, after all we don't need railroads or airport to expand internet connectivity.
Image Courtesy: The New York Times
There is fiber optic cable running across the country, and it's very unreasonable if all schools are not given internet connection within next few years. Our children should not find themselves in alien lands after their graduation, they should get the real taste of life in schools. They should not just hear about internet like fairy tales, they should use it. Schools with internet connection must make it accessible to students through whatever means possible. We must break the dividing factor among the students of same school and among rural and urban schools. Everybody should have equal rights to internet just like any other rights.

04 November 2012

Since 1989

In 1989 world leaders felt the need for a special rights for children under 18, after discovering that the Human Rights do not protect the children fully. They signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Bhutan was among the first countries to recognize and agree to it.
The Convention ...spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The Convention protects children's rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services. (UNICEF)
Built on varied legal systems and cultural traditions, the Convention is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations to be respected by every country signatory to the CRC.

Quite strangely I went to school in 1989. Every person of my age would have same hostile memories from schools but because I was very naughty myself I don't have any good thing to say about my primary school. I was beaten by teachers and seniors almost everyday. Nobody seemed to mind and therefore I didn't mind either. I thought I deserved the hammaring on the head and whipped naked in the public. But much later I realized that not many thought they deserved, because by the time I reached high school only a few of us where still holding on to school, rest have dropped out on the way.

Teachers and parents are the people who should be educated on the rights of the child, but how many of them even know there is such a thing? I actually saw the articles in CRC only last week, thanks to the 'Educating for GNH' workshop in my school. Perhaps this ignorance is still widespread among our teaching fraternity which is why even in 2012 children are scared of teachers.

I pledge to myself that I will respect the CRC at all cost without negotiation and serve my duty as care giver and protector of children who are put in my hand. I will work toward protecting the Rights of the Child which we were supposed to do since 1989.

31 October 2012

My GNH Model

This is how an ICT (Information and Communication Technology) teacher looks at GNH model (see the picture). Imagine socio economic development without banks, or banks without the new technologies. Imagine environment conservation without hitech devices. Imagine preservation of ancient texts and their promotion without computers. Imagine government that doesn't employ computer technology.
There is too much to imagine, and we know we can't imagine any of these without technology. But so far we haven't spelled out the role of ICT in achieving GNH, and when something is not specified then it's hard to work on it. ICT needs to be given due importance right now and here.
ICT is the supporter to all Four Pillars of GNH and Light to all Nine Domains. 

30 October 2012

© Copyright Not The Right to Copy

I was very happy to discover that a presentation I prepared two years ago has gone a long way and found itself a tiny place among the many wonderful content materials in the four day long Educating for GNH workshop. 'Dealing with Digital Natives' was my award winning presentation from NIIT Chigphen Rigphel master teacher training in Paro College of Education.
The whole presentation was used in its original format, from title to pictures to the words used, and only thing missing was my name I have put on the last slide. The content development for the course must have gone through series of professional screening before it was made into this Educating for GNH Bible, and I was awestruck how a simple credit for intellectual property was overlooked.
Nevertheless I forgave the blunder right away on seeing how well it's serving its purpose of educating teachers on the need to update themselves to match up with their digital genius students. I enjoyed the expressions on the faces of my fellow participants as they saw the slides unfold. It was still doing the magic it did during its debut in Paro college where I packed the house.
Like a happy child I shared my joy of discovery with the chief lady during the lunch. She was wise enough to apologize for failing to credit, reason being that lots of stakeholders were involved in it and it had been difficult to track things. I happily admitted that I was proud to see it doing good job.
Then came the twist in the story, the facilitators, all senior teachers and principals, who were sitting around the chief lady looked at me in confusion. One was honest and said, "Now who could be the real owner of this presentation? When we were in Chhukha Dzongkha there was on teacher who claimed it was his. Then Thimphu, another claimed ownership." Another facilitator confirmed the incidences. I found myself blushing because now my claim could be perceived as another fool seeking attention.
I still remember that day. We were given to answer a set of questions pertaining to our current mode of teaching and what changes are required to cater to our young children. Other groups had obediently answered each question and presented. I chose to differ. I digested all the questions and built a free flowing presentation employing lots of satirical pictures.
I received houseful of laughter on each slide, the certificate of 'Best presentation' and lots of handshakes. Before I could get back to my seat I was handed with handful of pen drives. Some jokingly suggested me to sell it but I was more than happy to share it to all 40 participants in that room. They unanimously agreed that it could be used as the introduction to the whole Chigphen Rigphel Teacher training course.
It's obvious that everyone would have deleted my name from the last slide once they were using in their courses, which is how it reached to my class today without it, but who were those friends who not only let their cow graze on my land but wanted to change my sa-thram to their name?

Religion in School

This topic came up when we were connecting our school activities to GNH domains. Many were confidently listing prayers, Rimdro and religious discourses in schools as activities they have in place that caters to Cultural Diversity. Where is diversity in an institution where one religion is generously practised without any regards to other believes?
I raised a question about how compulsory attendance in prayers and other buddhist discourses in schools might be disregarding children from different faith. And how this is unconstitutional. To which the facilitator, who used to be my teacher in Drukgyel, gave a very satisfying answer. He cited an example from a school in Thailand where the school hall has alters for different faiths, which he said could be an ideal concept. But he said if we are looking for a workable solution then respecting their faith and allowing them to stay away from normal religious activities could be realistic. However, he said, the best solution is to educate the children to such depth that they attain the openness to embrace the diversity, and be able to accept and tolerate. That sounded the most difficult and most convincing. Only this has the long term value which we are seeking. 

28 October 2012

Sunday Syndrome

This morning our class of 35 teachers were strangely silent in the morning hours. When the chief lady, Ms. Phuntsho passed by our room, she wasn't happy with us. She interrupted our session to let us know that we were not in a prayer to be so solemn. She went on for some time trying to ignite our spirit, and concluded by stating she found 'teachers in Wangdue are not as interactive as those in other Dzongkhags she worked with.'
I had to jump in and inform her that, "actually we had very interactive sessions yesterday with some topic taking us to hot debates. It's just that you happened to come by when we are in 'Sunday Syndrome' mode." I didn't know if there was something called 'Sunday Syndrome' but she knew what I was catching at so she laughed, gave me a sweet sour looks and explained with apology.
Picture from Mirror News
Our body and mind are both so accustomed to taking rest once in every seven days ever since we knew Sunday, and when sunday is taken out of our week our minds go into standby mode. I always thought Sunday was just a state of mind but today I realized it's an unavoidable day in a week. It takes hours before our mind finally give up on Sunday Syndrome and agree to function normally. Sunday was supposed to be the only day I don't disappear after breakfast and my daughter enjoys it, and Kezang keeps so many things waiting in line for us to do together on Sunday but today I disappeared after breakfast and couldn't be helpful to Kezang- both are disappointed. Ironically it happened for a GNH workshop. It even took our Saturday. But I must admit it was worth, perhaps the only weekend in the year where so much is learnt.

P:S: Just found out that there is a phrase 'Sunday Syndrome' already in use, though meaning little differently than the context I have put in.

Understanding 'Educating for GNH'

Over 102 teachers in Wangdue attended the workshop on 'Educating for GNH' in my school since yesterday. I wasn't among the seven who were supposed to attend from our school but by some last minute twists three of our representatives couldn't make it giving me an easy entry. I handed over my charges as the second in command of Examination committee to a colleague and joined the workshop.
I lost my much awaited weekends by agreeing to attend the four day course over the weekend but after hours into the course I realized I have made a right decision. I wasn't ignorant about the concept of educating for GNH, I was rather bombarded with too many information from third party sources that I failed to appreciate it, perhaps that's what happened with many people. And perhaps that's why many were cynical about it. For me this workshop was all about filtering information, putting them in order and making sense out of them, and I succeeded right away. The concept is very simple and workable.
With the project we are identifying the possible values we are imparting through any subject and naming those values, because when we have a name then we have at least something less abstract to stress on. However, core of it is letting students find purpose in whatever they are learning so that they find purpose in their lives. Our roles are spelled out as the most important factor in their lives, we are to create the bestest conditions, and to make sure our schools have the right environment that is sensitive to both their physical and psychological needs and that we teachers are both the "message and the medium".

One of the three facilitators in my room is my physics teachers from Drukgyel, Mr Kinley Gyeltshen. He is such a wonderful person to listen to, he can edutain the adults as much as he did his magic on us as young students back in 1999.

27 October 2012

The Gap Between the School and Home

No child is so bad in school. There is hardly any record of gang fights on campus, one among hundreds would dare be bold enough to smoke behind the toilet, and same bold ones would come to school on drugs and at times on alcohol. But they pay the price of daring. Rest are in their best form when they are within the school fence.
No child is so bad at home. Some might not listen to every thing their parents' demand but they won't find trouble in the bedroom. They may not study hours on stretch but nothing can go so wrong at home, even if they are watching movies or sleeping.
In the Gap. Photo Source: Flickr
It's between the school and home that every wrong thing happens. The gap that has no time limit and no supervision. From 8 AM to 3:30 PM schools will responsible. If a child is absent we call their parents. If a child wants to visit hospital we give them time frame and ask for prescriptions. But at what time do parents expect their children to reach home? Where do they go after changing? Were they really involved in school games, when they come late? Are they really going for discussing home work? Is there any birthday party at all? Which Lhakhang are they going to and with whom?
But sadly not many homes have anybody who would play that important part. Father is in archery ground and mother with her friends, father is playing cards late into night and mother's gone looking for him,... Worse, many children live with their young siblings who themselves are yet to grow up. Home like this are deeper gaps.
No child wants to go wrong, it just happens. They need help before everything goes wrong. They need help in getting them out of the gap. They have dreams, and dreams can't be achieved in those gaps. Schools are doing their role. What are homes doing?

Note: It's just a quick thought. Detailed piece will be written soon.