Showing posts with label Out of Syllabus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Out of Syllabus. Show all posts

28 September 2021

Why Bhutanese Students Admire Hitler? -A Letter From Germany

In March 2019, my German friend, Annalena Lohaus wrote the following letter to our education minister, Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai. Since it was written to none other than the man at the helm of the education ministry, I didn't think I needed to write this blog. But it's almost three years, and there is no sign of the letter having made any impact whatsoever, so I am obliged to share this letter and let the people whom Lyonpo forwarded the letter know how significant it is. 

Anna- The Letter Writer

Anna told me how she was taken aback by several Bhutanese friends holding high regard for Hitler and Nazis. Of course, if she was not from Germany, the conversations wouldn't have happened. I helped her understand the mystery by pointing at the class VIII world history textbook. She didn't believe me. I had to get a tattered copy of the textbook that was published before I was even born and gave it over to her. 

Several days later, she wrote back to me expressing how disgusted she was about the content of the book where not only was Hitler celebrated but also Stalin and Mosulini. She couldn't believe that students were given tasks to collect the picture of Hitler and write notes about him. You will feel the significance of portraying Hitler in such a light in the letter below, which comes from a young German lady who carries the great burden of her history to this day;

Dear Minister Jai Bir Rai,

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you directly. I am writing to you today to speak about an issue I've encountered several times in Bhutan as a German citizen. While Bhutan is a wonderfully welcoming country and the people I've met have been very warm and curious I was confronted multiple times with statements that are deeply troubling to me.

When people have learned that I am from Germany I was told more than ten different times how much Adolf Hitler is admired for his leadership and how he strengthened Germany during the early 1900s.

These statements are deeply problematic and as well as incorrect. The first time I heard this I did not know how to react. I also did not think much of it. However, it happened more frequently and I started to wonder where it was coming from. I would speak to my brother and friends at home who were equally as shocked by these remarks especially as we have our own personal experiences withNeo-Nazis nowadays and the uprising of far-right ideology.

For a German, positive remarks about Hitler are very insulting as our history is a great burden that we carry until today and it should not be treated lightly,

I was born many years after the war had ended, however, I still feel the shame and guilt of what has happened during WWll as we hear about it from our grandparents, in our schools and in books, art and movies.

I remember quite vividly one evening when we were staying with my grandparents and my father was talking to my grandfather about WWll. My grandfather grew up in central Germany as part of a low ranking family. His parents weren't Nazis; the Nazi propaganda didn't have a place in their homes. They were however members of the Nazi party as far as I know - but merely to protect themselves. lt wasn't a free choice at all. My grandmother's father refused to join the party and spent several years in prison for it. This resulted in a lot of hardship for his family. Many people tried to avoid these situations by joining the party as my grandfather's parents did. For children, there were special organisations: Hitler youth ("Hitlerjugend" in German) for the boys and League of German Girls ("Bund Deutscher Mädel")for the girls. My grandfather was not allowed to join the Hitler youth as his parents wanted to protect him from the propaganda as much as they could.

He was born in 1933. During the war, he was only a child. He went to school in his village. Every morning the children would gather in the schoolyard and sing the national anthem together; standing in one line. For a young boy, this generated a feeling of great pride. However, some children were not allowed to join: Jews especially and those, who were not members of Hitler youth or League of German Girls. These children were made to stand at the side in shame as th€ others proudly sang the national anthem.

My grandfather told me that he went home one day and begged his parents to allow him to join. Years later he was still ashamed of how easily the propaganda worked on him. He probably was wondering which role he would have played in the war had he been older and able to work and fight. I am afraid it would not have been a positive one. He had a small room in his house with bookshelves on every wall stuffed with books on WWll. He read everything he could get his hands on. History books, books on mäss psychology, biographies and even Mein Kampf and other books written by Nazis. He wanted to understand thoroughly how the crimes during the Nazi era had become possible and how the propaganda had worked on so many people.

My father was born after the war. During that evening at my grandfather's house, he claimed that every German back then knew about the concentration camps and the holocaust. My grandfather denied it. He wanted to explain how people fell for the propaganda without knowing about the horrors of the genocide. He was at the brink of tears. The shame of having been a part of it all even though he did not commit a crime himself never let go of him.

But whoever receives a regime like the Nazis and a dictator like Hitler as positive is an enabler to their crimes. This is what we learn in Germany as part of our history lessons. We speak in great detail about antisemitism and the ideology of the Nazis that put humans into different categories and allowed the enslavement and murder of millions. We visit concentration camps and listen to talks of survivors so that we remember our history and our duty to make sure that it does not repeat itself.

Even though I was born so many years after WWll I still feel the same historic guilt as my grandfather did. When I visited a friend in Poland and heard that I was going to meet his grandmother I was deeply worried about how she would receive me. Luckily she was a very lovely lady and welcomed me. However, in Finland, I was told by friends that I couldn't go to their grandparents' house because I was German and they would never open the door to me since they suffered greatly from the deeds of the Nazis during WWll.

I hope these stories help you to understand why it troubles me and other Germans so deeply when people in Bhutan or anywhere else say positive things about Hitler. The second world war is not my fault but it is my duty to do my best to prevent the ideology from growing again. Every family in Germany has its own story. Some were perpetrators, many were victims. Some stories I've heard from my friends' grandparents are too horrible to repeat here. Every family has lost loved ones and many innocent lives were lost in an unjustified war that was started by Germany and fuelled by a twisted and inhuman ideology.

I am writing to you because through conversations with my friend Passang Tshering I have come to know that the remarks about Hitler I was confronted with are partly rooted in misinformation during history classes. He was able to get me the Vlll World History Book that is being used (as far as I am told) in schools in Bhutan and it was very surprising to me to see how Hitler and Nazi Germany are being portrayed as victims of the other nations and Hitler as the liberator of the oppressed German people. The holocaust is not even mentioned in that book, which would be illegal in Germany. The denial of the holocaust and public praise of the Nazis is a crime punished with up to 3 years in prison.

The depiction of history in that era is very one-sided and simplified, leaving out major events and painting a wrong picture of Germany's role in both wars. Even WWI was caused to a great extent by Germany and the conditions set by the peace treaty of Versailles were harsh but justified. Germany was by no means a victim and Hitler no liberator. He rose to power by killing and capturing those opposing him and by manipulation of the masses. The book talks of great economic advancement and development of infrastructure in that time but fails to mention how the momentous buildings were constructed: By taking property from non-German people and Jews, by using forced labour and by enslaving Jews as well as whoever was deemed to be of lesser worth than the "Aryan master race".

The book talks very positively not only about Hitler but Stalin and Mussolini as well. Millions of lives were lost in WWll and I strongly believe that these dictators should not be glorified. The tasks for the children to solve in the book are especially disturbing: They are for example asked to collect pictures of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini and write short texts about them as if they were Popstars.

The book is poorly written and seems to be very biased in order to depict history in a certain way. This results in Bhutanese admiring Hitler and thinking that this is a compliment for Germans when in fact it is an insult and disturbing to anyone aware of the history.

I hope that the lessons and books can be changed in the future. I do understand the fascination with Hitler's charisma, however, a man that ordered the murder of 6 million Jews should never be idolised. The ideology behind the Nazi era is extremely harmful and their role in WWll should be recognised as what it truly is: One of the greatest crimes against humanity and all of their doing needs to be clearly condemned.

Thank you very much for your consideration; I would be glad to talk to you further about this issue if you have any enquiries.

Kind regards,

Analena Lohaus


24 May 2014

Students Pleasing the Rain God

If you are enjoying today's cloudy weather after some many days of dry heat, thank the students of Motithang and Kelki who undertook the divine journey of Kanjur-lingkor around the Thimphu city to please the rain god. The absence of rain may not quite bother the urban population but the farmlands around the city were crying for rain.
Thimphu Thrompon Kinley Dorji and Thromday Education Officer Dorji Wangchuk were leading the boys under the scotching sun. I don't know if they can please the rain god and change the course of natural phenomenon but the event was a big out-of-classroom cultural lesson that the students will never forget. It's the lesson of faith in god, faith in ancestral practices and most of all the demonstration of brotherhood among us and the farmers who work in the fields and produce food for us.
I met the pilgrims above the Tashichodzong and the sight of them pleased me beyond words- I wish I were the rain god. I stopped my car and my family received blessings from the boys. It was an unexpected revision of spiritual lesson in an unexpected place, it's been quite sometime I went on that journey in my village. Salute to the Thrompon who has always held my highest regards and the TEO who took education beyond school, who didn't care if it was out of syllabus. 

Photographs are from Organizer Dorji Wangtchuk's Facebook post. 

09 May 2014

Sonam Choki- The Story of a Girl Who Reads "Dawa- The Story of a Stray Dog"

I met Sonam Choki on her first day in school. I am usually very forgetful but I still remember about that meeting because she left a lasting impression on me. She came to me to ask if she and her friends could go home because she had seen people leaving. The fineness of the language with which she asked me took by the pleasantest surprise. I couldn't believe a little class VII girl could own such beautiful language. I even asked her father if she had studied overseas but the secret to her amazing language was her habit of reading endlessly. Reading surely does magic, she proved it to me.

After a few weeks my school started forming clubs and I had to leave my old eLearning club to take up School Museum club but I had some unfinished dreams with the old club. So I called back all the old members of my former club to rebuilt the team and carry on. I then went looking for Sonam Choki. She was already into another club. I asked her if she would like to join my former club and read for audiobook recordings. She happily accepted.

I handed her over to a senior member, Chidananda who was the technical operator of the club and asked him to try some recordings with her. One day he came running to me to express his appreciation for her skill. He agreed that she is the best we have had. They have tried several poems, and short stories over time, and our ultimate goal is to record Kuenzang Choden's "Dawa- The Story of a Stray Dog".
Please listen to the following piece of recording they have done with minimal technology.

If forward looking companies like M-Studio would agree to help we are ready to record the book, so that the book, which is studied as textbook can be loaded onto mobile phones and any student can listen to it for free. Of course books are to be read but when it's a textbook you have to read it over and over, therefore listening alternative can be a great help.

If you like her reading, know that it's the magic of her reading habit therefore encourage, inspire and motivate children around you to read. Reading not only makes one a good reader but also shapes the soul and changes one into a cultured young fellow. Sonam is that.

28 October 2012

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.

02 July 2012

Dear Students, The World of Your Own

The world will not end this year I will take the risk if it does, but I can't take the risk if you choose to end your world. You own a world of your own and you are the center of that world. You can destroy that world as easily as you could make it a wonderful place to live in. There are always choices ahead of you, distinctly black and distinctly white, easily separable. There are people like you and me who go strong and make white choices, and there are people like you and me whom the black choices choose because they are not strong enough to love themselves.
Every time you go on vacation I get a bad feeling that you might land up on the dark side of life, from where you might drown further away from life everytime you want to return, therefore I write this to you to tell you three simple things as you leave for summer vacation of 2012.

1. Bad opportunities, like weeds in our garden, are generously available in the human garden. But don't be generous with them, be kind enough to spare yourself a few moment to think of all the people that mean to you so much, and think about what would happen to them if you go those wrong ways.

2. You will be caught. Bad things never go unpunished. Every time you are tempted to do something wrong just know that you can't run from it. If love can't stop let fear hold you back.

3. Take care of your own little world, the big world will take care of itself.
Have a happy summer vacation. Make people around you happy. And when we reunite let's share our happy stories.

- Posted using BlogPress


19 June 2012

Tear Drops on my Chair

I have known this high school principal for sometime and have gathered a lot of regards for the man he is, the Education officers he was, and the principal he has been so far. He is known for reforming and reconstructing system into very friendly environment that every time he leaves a place people feel the emptiness he has left behind.
This time I came into close contact with him, over and over, and he spared me enough of his time to talk about his school and listen about my school, yes we were talking about students' problems and relative solutions, without ignoring the origin of the problems. It's interesting but disheartening to know that we actually have ideas about where the problems come from and how we could prevent them but there are major stakeholders who wouldn't do enough.
His few sentences touched me so much and made me think over it for days; he said, "I think I should quit this job before I make myself a merciless devil, who sits on this chair and watch parents cry for the mistakes their children committed. How many parents cried here in front of me! Those parents leave behind all the self respect for their children and beg of me to give them another chance.
"Our intention of helping the child together fails to convince the parents, they don't want to take their children home for some days and talk things out- they are backing off from the little help we are asking in helping their children. And finally when we leave them with no option they leave with bitter hearts.
"In a small society like ours I am already hurting too many people, who wouldn't understand, there are too many tear drops on my chair..."

Though enclosed within quotation marks, the words are not exact to the scale but I made sure the meaning and the intention is preserved.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

25 May 2012

IELTS Questions Our Credibility

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam has become a superstar exam in Bhutan with everybody wanting to do it no matter what the cost- because it will be recovered. It's the dream exam that everybody does to reach their dreams. 
Royal Institute of Management(RIM) conducts four tests in a years under the administration of British Council Division in Kolkata and they always had houseful despite the Nu.8000 fee. Some people I heard traveled all the way to Delhi Kolkata to sit for the exam because RIM ran short of seats.
I have a dream to go for masters too, and I know I will do well in this expensive exam if only I wish to. The registration fee is huge going by the Bhutanese salary but I can afford it if I wish to. However, it is not about the exam that I am worried about, and it's not so much about the fee too, I am afraid by sitting for the exam I am questioning the credibility of our education system. After spending seventeen years studying in English language we can't insult our education system by agreeing to sit for English Language Testing, and no friendly country should doubt our English Language proficiency as long as Bhutan government doesn't send illiterate farmers for Masters Degree. 
I am grateful to the host countries for offering scholarship to our people but I would be more grateful if they recognize our education system, and make exceptions like they do with some native English speaking countries because we place no less importance on the English language, if at all it is to test English proficiency. The test not only spoils the goodwill of the scholarships but also has big implications on individual's financial strength and the poor nation's weak economy. 

16 March 2012

Out of Syllabus

This article appears in the latest publication of Student Digest, and unlike other stories I wrote this exclusively for the magazine.

4th Issue
Would you spend an hour reading a chapter that is out of syllabus? Would you do an assignment your teacher would not mark? The answer is obvious, there is hardly enough time to study what is actually important. What makes something important? The high probability of something coming in exam is considered important. Do you study only for exam? When will you study for your life?
These are some questions I didn’t ask myself when I was in school, but today as I reflect and realize I begin all over again. I make my students question themselves often between their chapters. I make them question every page in their book. While every school has an elaborately decorated vision that encompasses every aspect of life, they lack the freedom in bringing their vision alive. The written syllabus creates a narrow tunnel through the school, from exam to exam.
Exam has become the license to so many offers in life and therefore everything in school should revolve around exam, and there is no way other than the narrow tunnel. One day we reach at the end of the tunnel with good marks in hand and a job ahead of us, but then we realize that everything around us is out of syllabus. Nobody would want to wake up unhappy for the rest of our lives, despite having a passed so many exams and having gotten into a good job.
We must realize early in our lives that life is not bound by syllabus; we must dare to go out of syllabus to pursue real life.  We must go beyond mere collection of information to processing information and invention of ideas, so that we don’t feel stagnant. We must discover our natural talents and polish them because we all come with our own unique gifts. So many strangers gather in one place called school wearing same clothes and there is no better place to build relationships, respect differences, work in teams, and learn leadership, for these are the elements of life that could guarantee us happiness. We should love to learn every new skill that comes our way and try to master some, for we never know what life has in store for us.
Millions die every year yet we don’t even know but when Steve Jobs died world stopped for a moment. What makes him so special? He discovered his natural talents, spiced it up with his ability to lead, supported it by his courage to rise from failure and went on to make an almost perfect technology. iPhone was not in his syllabus, he created it. He literally went out of syllabus by dropping out of school. Walt Disney was another drop out who now lives forever like his characters. If Albert Einstein studies within the syllabus without dropping out at fifteen would we remember him now? Bill Gates is a living example of someone who went so much out of syllabus to create Microsoft and become a billionaire. Who remembers his classmates who were lucky then to be able to complete their college?
When the time is right, don’t sleep in the syllabus. Wake up to life’s calling. For if you land up in a good job you must know how to work happily and if you remain jobless you should know how to create job- these are not in your syllabus.

Get your copy of Student Digest @ Nu.65. If you are in Wangdue and Punakha, just get it from me.