for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built. ~UNESCO

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wangdue Dzong Tragedy

        A 400 years old fortress is razed to nothing...It is but a tragedy beyond mere thoughts.

 24 June,2012, a normal sun-day in a perfectly normal Bhutan. However, the evening brought upon one of the greatest loss to the nation. Wangdue Dzong was razed to the grounds. A spark must have been the starting of the great fire. Only god knows the source. People gathered at the scene but were helpless.  It all started at the dawn of a beautiful dusk but the cool wind of the approaching dusk escalated the fire. Even worse, the entrance to the dzong was blocked before the fire spread to the other sides of the fortress, making it impossible for people to penetrate and contain the fire. Fire brigades were helpless too. The Dzong is one of the oldest of its kind with many sacred relics contained in her. We heard of oral news which stated of  most nangtens or relics being saved. 

The gathering crowd gathered memories and chanted prayers, asking god to save a four centuries' old history. Our kings reached at the site to assure the people, to motivate the firefighters and to help the situation. A national mourning day will be observed on Monday.

Fire is a disaster which is preventable but too hard to contain once it is in its full might. The tragedy at Wangdue is a lesson for everyone to look for preventive measures of fire before another dzong is turned into ashes. The government might feel it is too expensive for  her to to built structures which are less vulnerable to fire or buy fire proof containers to preserve our relics and other important documents. It will be expensive but it has a price tag. However, the relics we have are priceless. 
Another thing which always comes up is the electrical short circuit. This has been the real or the assumed cause of most fire incidents in Bhutan. If the same is the true cause then we must review it strictly. Is it that we are using substandard materials, like some people point out or Are we deficit of skilled technicians?  
Bhutan boast of growing media but the information or news is not passed on at the earliest time. BBS is the only TV based news agency and they boast of branch offices along with complete crew in all parts of the country.  But what happened yesterday was not how the only TV news office should operate, according to my observation. I am sorry to state that BBS failed to inform the general public about the great tragedy. It happened only after the news spread on its own like the fire at the dzong. First hand news was not present and the news broadcast was but information collected here and there from the locals. We have seen in the global scenario where some news channels helped the public to  save or be saved from disasters akin to the our tragedy at Wangdue. Yesterday is gone but we need to be on track for tomorrow.  

Bhutan lost one important historical monument under the deadly claws of fire. We can do nothing but sit-watch-talk-blame-forget. It is a lesson for all of us which shouldn't be forgotten easily.I think everyone of us need to be pro-active. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Of students using guide books…

The use of Guide Books opened another shortcut leading to a plunge in the quality of education.

The advent of modern schools was welcomed by the isolated kingdom of Bhutan. The long journey of education has brought about remarkable changes to the nation. However, in the midst of all these fine words, Bhutan talks of a deteriorating quality of education. Stakeholders point fingers at each other. Teachers have become the most used scapegoats and curriculum too is considered a reason.  Who is actually responsible? Guide books lay hidden within the students and some teachers but the use of guide books is also responsible for the decline in the quality.
As an educator, I am of the view that everyone is responsible. Be it an engineer or a farmer, we are all equally responsible. Teachers along with educational offices, is equally responsible, and students too.  The society is answerable. An engineer does not go to a classroom to teach but he can be a parent of a student and he has a duty for his child’s education. A teacher’s duty is the clearest of all. Moreover, policy makers are also directly associated with the system. There are curriculum changes that affect the quality of education and so does the system hold some liability. Coming to the agent alias affected side-the students: they hold great answers within themselves. They know the most correct answer and they even possess the magic potion to rectify the problem.
In addition to these, the use of Guide Books opened another shortcut leading to a plunge in the quality of education. Guide books have taken their own journey from solved common examination papers in the early days to summary of a novel or subject- wise guides. Some guide books are written like text books but with inadequate answers.  I am of no value to comment on the actualities of using guide books but as far as a teacher is concerned, the guides are pure symbols of destruction- of students’ genuine learning.  Guide books offer many disadvantages in the learning cycle. One reason is proven through various researches whereby it is found out that the use of guide books lower the student’s usage of his/her own effort in learning. Another basis is that guide books are filled with solved questions which bar the student’s exploring stage and students know the answer but in short of their own thoughts. The other reason, for guide books to be useless, is that guide books are very poor in terms of content as well as language usage. 
Although guide books are totally discouraged in Bhutanese schools, we see our students owning various cheap, obsolete and error- rich guide books.  Guide books are rarely blamed for their content and they are not seen as an ineffectual stuff by parents and students thereby making it flourish alongside the standard school text books.  The use of guide books in Bhutan usually hits the highest bar amongst Class X and XII students.  Science and Geography guide books are the most used guides by Bhutanese students. Further, the availability and abundance of guide books make it easier for students to grab their copy.
 Writing of guide books has become an easy way to mint money. Writers do great as students worship guide books more than their text books. Every person with little knowledge on the subject has become a writer and the most comical thing is that all guide books are registered with an ISBN (International Standard Book Number).  I wonder how the system of ISBN is worked out but I am pretty sure that a minimum standard should be maintained in order to achieve one. Some guide books are so poor that even the simplest of grammar is not correct. The content is also full of errors. The answers in these books limit the student’s intelligence to look beyond. It is true that guides work out as an easy way for students to score in their exams though they have learnt very less for their life.
As a teacher, we discourage students from using a guide book but we fight a losing battle here. The reason is simple-students love direct readymade answers and writers with publishers find it irresistible to make money through guide books. This is a juncture where everyone should intervene- a parent should not let his child go for guide books; a teacher must make a policy No Guide books; Concerned offices should check the publication and sale of guide books; Students must try to learn for life and not merely for exams; and of all, Writers and publishers must think twice before bringing out a colorful yet futile book which will have more drawbacks than rewards.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Teacher shares

If teachers had no work, then we need to re-view the definition of work. 

We are here for them. They are innocent... and they are not to be blamed.
Teaching is a noble profession. I do not really understand the reason behind this declaration.  The noble thing has put us in the list of the most worked out profession, if I am correct. Teachers are like any other civil servants who work but the only difference is that we work with minds, minds which are very sensitive and fragile. 
Moreover, we always need to be the ‘role models’ and this is the most tricky thing I find to adjust. Thousands of eyes always view us. Everyone observes our every step. The ‘Model’ state of affairs too, is a very difficult task to play for a normal human being with his own character. Mind you, I was not born a teacher nor was I brought up as a teacher. Teaching only came to my life in the early twenties of my life. I grew up as a different individual with my own way of life until I took up the profession. I had my own style of doing my hair, the way I speak or the dress I find comfortable.

Now as a teacher, I have to keep my hair in such a way that it is a model hairstyle. The way I dress as well as the way I speak should be of the finest mode. If I am not able to keep this up, I am not being a full teacher. The physical tunings are quite easy to amend though I fret over whenever I hear the clipper, buzzing on my hair.  The whole mania that is difficult is that we need to lead a ‘model’ life. We should act soft and wise even when we are not anywhere near these things. Family life is also a difficult thing to adjust for a teacher. I am talking about the sacrifices we have to make in order to be a model. I love to eat doma but as a model teacher, I have to sacrifice this desire.  Not all things I do to be a model are coming from my heart; it is not at all genuine. I hide my tattoo to be a model, I do not use gel on my hair to be a model, I always speak wisely, or politely to be a model, I change my hobbies to be a model and I do anything but to be a model. Although these things make us a better human, after all, we are human beings and each individual is different from the other. I love to teach my students from my heart but I do not like to be viewed as a model.
I do not want to state my example, I can see and hear multitude of incidences related to others viewing the teacher as a model. For instance, nobody minds another civil servant involved in some off- hour business but the front pages of the Bhutanese papers will show it all if a teacher has done a similar art. A teacher always lives a public life.  
The authorities restrict teachers’ movement during school hours. I dislike this rule from the core of my heart. I have some simple reasons to support this stance. Teachers are also social animals with various needs and obligation. I believe that teachers also have a circle of people around them. We need to keep the connection alive and attend important gatherings. I particularly mean attending funeral rites of a close one. I know that we get bereavement leave but it only applies to direct family members. Is it that we ignore when a cousin or friend is in problem? Bhutanese boast of an intricate society but if teachers are restricted like now, teachers are outside the circle of this beautiful intricacy.
Further, the concerned authority will immediately reprimand or inform us when they see us in town during a working day. We go to town under various reasons. The reasons include loan processing, attending gatherings, visiting hospitals, or some important personal work. I think we are also beings who desire to get something like a car and we need loans to buy it. We have to pay our bills; we also need to cater to some important personal obligations, which is not possible to be postponed. We all know that banks and other offices work at the same time as we do. It takes simple logic to understand this situation. As long as the concerned teacher makes up the lost time, I do not see any problem.
It is simply funny to see civil servants participating in different sports or games tournaments. The most visible thing is archery. Teachers are not allowed to take casual leave and participate, and I support this rule, Thumbs up! However, I think other civil servants also have work to do like us. Is it that we get SL (sport leave) in other organizations? I do not understand the difference here and I hope there is none.
Teachers are always under the microscopic view of people around and afar. I compare the situation to paparazzi following glamorous people. Even personal affairs like marriage are viewed, but critically. The sad thing is that they do not see the emotional stress that a teacher goes through. Nobody cares about the good things that a teacher does, they are always trying to find a fault.
Teachers actually play an important role in the society. I am a teacher and I go on with blind eyes and deaf ears. I will play my part as a teacher and live it full. I will carry on taking the torch and lighting the darkness. Nevertheless, I think we have to revisit the current situation. If these situations go on, there is a chance where the noble profession can become a frustrating profession… 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Waste-an UGLY Truth

-A report on an exhibition by SMSS UNESCO club
5th June 2012, while the world celebrated World Environment Day, in the beautiful school of Samtengang, the room adjacent to the Vice Principal’s office turned out busier than it used to be on usual days. The typical stern and peaceful atmosphere gave way to vibrant, joyful and curious sounds of students walking, talking, reading and laughing. As they entered the room, their eyes were given a treat of items which were made from waste objects and the walls were covered with messages and writings on waste management. They came to witness the exhibition on Waste, which was organized by the UNESCO club of the school. The club opened the exhibition in line with a global celebration of World Environment Day, and the honor of inauguration was done by the Principal of the school.

 Not so long back in the year, the SMSS UNESCO club decided to focus most of the club’s activities on waste management. Thus, the idea of the exhibition titled- Waste-an UGLY Truth was born   into the club’s action plan. It took a tedious month long endeavor to put up the exhibition, where students worked extra hours to collect waste materials around the school and designed various items from the same waste articles. The main aim of the exhibition was to create awareness on waste. The club communicated their aim through three main mediums- demonstration of models made by reusing waste materials found in and around the schooldisplaying of articles on waste management and expressions on waste management through messages/slogans.  To make it even larger, the club decided that they should use as much waste items as they can while making their models, writings and messages.

The items on display varied from things as small as a paper flower to as large as a paper recycling plant’s model. A large amount of waste found in the school was frooti packs and litchi drink bottles. These wastes were put to their maximum test in the exhibition- a group made a bridge model out of it and another transformed a number of litchi drink bottles into a beautiful dustbin.  Pet bottles also contributed a lot to the waste strength and they too received great utility. As a school, waste papers dominated all corners yet the UNESCO club members fought a losing battle with the waste papers. Waste papers were the easiest materials to  reuse. They were used to write messages and articles. The papers were used in most of the models on the show. Even more, a group used old socks to make a cute little teddy bear model. Another group used old magazines to weave decorative mats and pen holders. Members used old sacks as mediums to scribble messages so did the old unwanted carton boxes got themselves functional. Old tin cans got colorful with flowers planted inside. Unwanted plastics were reused to make attractive bags. Gift boxes were born out of small waste carton boxes and the list goes endless…

Writings covered the basics of waste and waste management along with practical details of the 3Rs.

The exhibition was warmly appreciated by the staff and students of the school. Spectators enjoyed going through the items on display and reading the messages displayed around the room. The club was able to fulfill their dream of creating awareness on waste. The exhibition is planned to be on-the-go for a week.


Friday, June 1, 2012


Wangduephodrang: Bhutan

Half Yearly Report

Samtengang Middle Secondary School has been an active member of ASP net and UNESCO for a couple of years where many activities were organized in line with UNESCO themes. Thus far we trained more than 150 students under our club. This year we have 31 students in the club under two teacher coordinators and the club has focused on Waste management along with some other activities which are related to world concerns and educational in nature, for the current year. Our theme for 2012- We are here to make a difference through our own small deeds.


We are glad to present the programs initiated so far by the club along with the working details of the club through this report.

Organizational Details

v  Name: UNESCO club

v  Patron: Principal

v  Members: 31 students (16 boys and 15 girls)

v  Coordinators: Mr. Sonam Norbu and Mrs. Dema (teachers)

v  Working conditions: The club runs an hour long session on Wednesdays, every week, from 3:00PM to 4:00 PM where we usually engage ourselves in information dissemination, thought sharing, planning and discussions. The club organizes and implements supplementary activities on other relevant days.

v  Budget: The club does not receive any budgetary benefits from the school. Therefore, we organize fund raising activities by club members. The amount accumulated is used to finance the purchase of materials required to run the club’s initiatives.

PROGRAMS INITIATED THUS FAR (February 2012 to June 2012)

1.      Club Logo
As an identity of our club, we designed a logo which is purely for Samtengang UNESCO club. We combined the UNESCO logo, ASP net logo and the school logo along with a flying bird which is green and blue in color. The bird represents our club and it is in flight to represent our efforts towards achieving the universal goals. The colors green and blue represent the earth.

2.      World Water Day - Message through art on the theme Water Scarcity

22nd March 2012, The club organized an art competition amongst member to recognize the day under the theme water scarcity. The art works were displayed around the school to convey the messages in the art. A member from the club also delivered a speech during the morning assembly on the same theme

3.      Movie show- Substance abuse

On 30th March 2012, all members of the club gathered in the ICT room to watch a documentary on Substance abuse titled SUEE- The Needle which shocked the members with devilish scenes reflecting live affects of drugs. The motive was to pass the message of substance abuse and its harm. Students enjoyed as well as promised to carry on the message to their community

4.      World Health Day- Message/Exhibition/Cleaning campaign

7th April was another day where we got ourselves busy and going. The initiative started with a member reading Health minister’s message for the day and went on to a mini exhibition which members prepared. The exhibition was held in the Physics lab and was graced by the Principal and staff along with the students. In the evening we also organized a mass cleaning in collaboration with the school administration where the whole school engaged themselves with cleaning of the school premises as well as the nearby community.
5.      Litter Free School- Member

The UNESCO club also joined hands with the nature club to work towards the scheme of litter free school and has so far carried out minor cleaning works which include digging of a waste pit and cleaning the area near the shops.

6.      No Plastic Day- Every Friday

As the principal’s directives, we also observe No Plastic Day on Fridays for the whole school. For this to have a greater practicality, the coordinator presented a ppt slideshow on Plastic usage and the impacts. The ban is working great so far.

7.      Construction of  Drain for the lake

Along with the school administration, we worked hard to construct a drain leading to the lake from the community’s irrigational channel in order to feed water to the lake. For information, the lake nearby the school is drying up at a fast rate and is under the attack of weeds and it is without a feeding water source for a long time.

8.      Debate- Educational

As a part of literary activity, we organized a debate in English amongst the houses on 5th May 2012 under the topic- Parents play a greater role in educating their child. Four houses with 8 participants participated in the hour long program.

9.      One Day Raffle and Fast Food Stall

With due permission from the school administration, we organized two fund raising programs during the school sports day and Dzongkhag Sports Meet. During the school sports day, we worked on a fast food stall and generated a net profit of Nu. 2500 and the same was used to purchase materials for the upcoming exhibition in June. On the Dzongkhag sports meet, the club ran a One Day Raffle and made a net profit of Nu. 5000 and the same is saved to be used during the publication of UNESCO magazine latter in the autumn semester.
10.  Exhibition- Waste: an Ugly Truth

Since 6th May 2012, members started to work on the exhibition titled- Waste: an Ugly Truth which will go live on 5th June, 2012 coinciding with the World Environment Day. The exhibition will be large covering most parts of waste which start with basic definitions, messages, followed by types, waste management, the 3Rs, Models made from waste. Much of the exhibition will demonstrate the ways of Reusing waste materials which are found around students and in the school. So far, students have completed the articles and are working on the models. As an extra point, we made it compulsory for members to use waste materials as far as possible during the process, be it in writing or building the model. The waste pet bottles from soft drinks reduced drastically since the commencement of the work on this exhibition.To be practical, members were divided in groups of three and the groups are motivated through the promise of awarding of prizes for exceptional presentations. If all goes great, we are planning to call upon media.

11.  UNESCO  Magazine- Dedicated to the Sherig Century

The club is also working on publication of a UNESCO magazine in September which is dedicated to the nationwide celebration of 100 years of modern education in Bhutan. The club discussed and agreed to title the magazine- The Lamp did give light, ~a tiny realm celebrates 100 years of Modern Education: A Samtengang UNESCO Club Initiative.  Articles are coming in and the budget is ready. We also agreed to include guest articles from staff.


1.      Paper Mache- Creating beautiful crafts from waste paper

In connection to the waste importance that we focused, we are going to train members and other students the of Paper Mache where we use waste paper to create beautiful crafts. The same has been planned as paper contributes a huge amount to waste in schools and through this we are expecting to reduce paper waste in the school. Members will compete in building models through this art where they will each come up with a model of endangered animals or birds in the world.

2.      Mass Cleaning- In and Around the school

We also planned another mass cleaning in the second term where the school will clean the areas in and around the school.

3.      International Day of Peace, 21st September

UNESCO club is going to observe the day through meditation activities and presentation on world peace followed by discussion on the same.

4.      Field Trip- Natural calmness and Beauty

In the fall semester and after the rains, we are planning for a field trip where members will enjoy the natural beauty and learn to appreciate rather than causing harm. They will clean the area on the trail. As a follow up members will spread messages on protection of the environment.

5.      Sensitization on Adolescence

As many adolescents are least informed on their problems, we are planning to lift the curtain and go forward through sensitization on relevant problems which may include sexual education, relationships, Unemployment, Study Methods and other areas of concern.

Other programs will be initiated as and when required.


Report prepared by Mr. Sonam Norbu for UNESCO CLUB on 30th June, 2012

Sonam Norbu                                                                Dema
Coordinator                                                               Co coordinator

UNESCO club initiatives in Color

The SMSS UNESCO club has initiated various programs starting from cleaning campaigns to mini exhibition. We can through this pictorial presentation feel the vivid efforts.
The newly designed club logo
As an identity of our club, we designed a logo which is purely for Samtengang UNESCO club. We combined the UNESCO logo, ASP net logo and the school logo along with a flying bird which is green and blue in color. The bird represents our club and it is in flight to represent our efforts towards achieving the universal goals. The colors green and blue represent the earth.
As they started to clean...

with willingness and happiness...

all over they strolled and cleaned...

the lake area too...

and they burnt...

and cleaned...

Students constructing a drain...

and worked hard...

which lead to the dying lake...

So we did  a mini expo on the health day...

raised fund to organise and initiate

we even dug waste pits

all served chill refreshment...