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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Every Child Needs a Teacher I

...It calls for everyone to answer!

The world needs 6.8 million more teachers to provide basic primary education and every child in the world has the right to a quality education...  a statement that takes us off our comfort zone! statement? Education for All aka EFA is a global endeavor to fulfill the basic right to education and the Global Action Week (GAW) is one way through which the idea of EFA is spread across the world. Organizations come together to create awareness through varied activities, according to their capacities. The world is facing a great challenge of teacher shortage. Moreover the presence of quality trained teachers is a must to deliver quality education. Thus the theme for GAW 2013 stands: Every Child needs a teacher.  Teachers and their crucial role for quality education are in the spotlight for 2013.  21st April to 27th April 2013 is designated as the GAW for this year.  GAW is an annual event organized by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) and supported by UNESCO.
Believe it or not, 114 countries out of 208 countries need to increase their teaching faculty by 2015 in order to afford basic primary education. And the most saddening fact is that every year many teachers are leaving for greener pastures due to multitude of reasons. UNESCO figures predict that 5.1 million current teachers would leave the profession by 2015, owing to many causes. This invites yet another challenge of attracting, developing and retaining qualified teachers. Teacher gender is another global concern and a study proved that enrollment of girls is high in secondary schools where female teacher proportions were adequate in primary schools. A statement on EFA even stated that the best teachers should teach in early grades. The importance of good primary education is always prominent. There is more in the arsenal of concerns and facts. It is also vital for teachers to be trained to respond to the 21st century challenges. Teachers are great agents of social change. The GCE believes that teachers need to be supported and respected in the society. There is a dire need to improve and protect the working conditions of teachers. The sub Saharan region is the worst affected area under teacher gap.
Teachers… and yes qualified gender sensitive teachers are key factors to get children into schools and keeping them in schools. According to UNESCO statistics, 61 million school going aged children are denied their right to education due to the huge deficit of teachers. Girls account to the higher ratio. Worst, it is disheartening to learn that some children in the poorest countries spend many years in school but not being able to read or write a single word. This issue brings us to the training of teachers. We got to have qualified teachers in the field. Overcrowded classrooms, poor equipped classrooms, social outlook, salary and hundreds of other reasons all pull us down from achieving a universal goal. Surveys revealed that teachers take up extra jobs to supplement their salary.
Bhutan is not an alien to these problems. Many school going age children are not in schools, especially in rural areas. The shortage of teachers is also visible in Bhutanese classrooms. We are also experiencing teachers leaving the profession based on many reasons. Our teaching society is under threat. There is a talk in town on decline in quality of education, be it real or rumored. The outlook on education has improved in the recent years but we still have many hurdles to cross. Our education system is proactive yet there are multitudes of issues ranging from teacher distribution to curriculum implementation. Graduates take up teaching as their last option in terms of career choice. Professional development of teachers is another area of concern. In the recent transition to democracy, we saw many teachers leaving their schools. Every year we lose many teachers, trained and qualified ones. So the global concern is directly a local hurdle too. Schools are constructed across the nation but Bhutan is facing an immense challenge of providing basic education. The Bhutanese populace is fortunate as the government provides free education to every citizen, with the highest priority. This is always a green signal and we can achieve EFA one day in the near future. All we need is the common understanding amongst people from all walks of life.
The great shortage of teachers and the global scenario of children who are denied their basic right is a global challenge. Therefore the wise GAW is on the go to create awareness so that we fight a common test. GAW is bringing the world together to show the importance of a qualified teacher to provide primary education and the various issues faced by teachers and children across the globe to achieve one common goal of Education for All.  Let us take some time and offer our modest efforts to overcome these challenges- to make the world a better place… after all Education is the only tool we have- to create a healthy world.
In the words of the campaign: “Without teachers a school is just a building”.

Every Child Needs a Teacher II : Global Action Week in Samtengang Middle Secondary School

As observed by UNESCO club…
Realizing the need to act and with many goals set, the UNESCO club of Samtengang participated in the Global Action Week (GAW) 2013. We started off with a comprehensive information dissemination activity where the club read, discussed and learnt the global scenarios, issues and statistics. The silence of realization at the end of this meeting was what made us to feel deeply and commit ourselves to react. So we planned on observing GAW in our own small ways. 

Our immediate decision was to put up an awareness show. We discussed thoroughly on the activity and targeted to achieve a huge list of objectives. We wanted the school to know the ground facts pertaining to teacher shortage, right to education, world statistics and teacher issues. Even more, we wanted to let it be widely seen and understood and more… So we started working day in and out to put up the show. Books referred, poems composed, quotations quoted, drawings created and everything was done to reach out our voice. To work closely in line with the theme and to fulfill our aims, we divided the activity under four broad categories- Importance of Teachers, Benefits of Education, Attracting, Developing and Retaining Teachers and General Global Information on Education for All and right to education. Groups were formed under each category and each specialized group went all over to get facts, figures and compose words of inspiration.
After much struggle and dedication, we put up the show in the Biology lab of the school on 25th April. It was a dream come true for the club. The show opened with warm acceptance and participation from the students and staff of the school. Satisfied and proud was what went through us.

Literacy Status Appraisal in Samtengang community was our main event for GAW. This activity required more time and resources. We dedicated much effort towards conducting the appraisal which would give us facts and figures that would enable us to sensitize on the global theme of Education for All (EFA). The appraisal was conducted among the households of Nyisho and Gyelakha village, aimed to figure out the literacy status of the community along with their knowledge on teaching profession and other educational aspects. Through the appraisal we aim to bring out a comprehensive literacy status so that we can create awareness campaigns on EFA. Through the appraisal we aspired to:
1.      Collect figures on literacy level in the community
2.      Gather reasons for dropping schools or not being in school
3.      Find out the status of teaching profession in the community
4.      Figure out people’s knowledge on child right and quality education
5.      Analyze and use the information to create awareness on EFA, right for education and teacher importance/gap

With positive intentions, the club packed their lunch, carried the survey forms and embarked on a noble cause,  to collect the data. We went to each household and explained our mission in depth and detail. The students did a great job in collecting the information. Our voice was heard loud and clear. The villagers cooperated with us and participated actively. Some even offered tea and snacks to us. Many agreed to the global facts and issues. We could see their understandings through the responses. Few regretted for dropping schools and a lot of them decided to send their children to school when they attain the right age. From the study we learnt that very few people in the villages know about child rights and teacher profession. They had no/very less idea on quality of education, student teacher ratio etc. These revelations made us to commit more. Definitely, we will compile and analyze the data. We are still working on it and once we are through with the report, we are planning to go back to the villages once more. This time, backed by facts and figures, we hope to do more. School dropout and importance of teachers to deliver quality education are two grounds on which we would raise awareness.  With all these wonderful findings, dusk showed us the time to return to our stations…
Satisfied and committed to do more!

Friday, April 19, 2013


Culture of Peace and Sustainable Future

Report: Education for a Culture of Peace and Sustainable Future Through Education for International Understanding (EIU)- Capacity Building Crash Course for UNESCO club Members of SMSS, 3rd April 2013
 3rd April 2013, it was a bright Wednesday when 30 student members of UNESCO club, five teachers and the UNESCO club coordinator sat down to start the much awaited EIU workshop. Students and teachers settled down in their respective groups after an interesting group division activity- the participants picked lots where each lot contained a name of an animal and they had to make the sound of the animal they pick. After the group division, the facilitator (referred as ‘I’ which points to the undersigned) briefed on the overview of the workshop, highlighting on the agenda and the objectives of the course.

Then, I moved on with the introductory session on EIU where the concept, history, themes and importance were discussed thoroughly. To strengthen the understanding, we involved ourselves in a short group activity where the groups designed activities to implement the six themes of EIU.
In the second session, the participants were gaping and awestricken by the slides on global and local issues. Here, we viewed in detail the state of our world in today’s world. The deep breathes and the sheer hush manifested in promises that the participants made during the activity titled: How can you contribute to solving or minimizing the problems we face.
 The concept of sustainable development was the next important thing on line. We engaged ourselves in discussing and understanding the concept and current issues. The stock check diagram and the movie clip titled- The story of Stuff really helped us understand the sustainability of our resources. We even touched on the GNH pillar of balanced socio-economic development so as to integrate and portray the connection between development and sustainability. After a short recap on the previous sessions, we took a tea break.
Refreshed and energized, the participants were taken through yet another session of high value on learning to live together. In this session, we discussed in depth on the causes and prevention of conflict. The participants poured out their feelings and agreed that conflicts can be prevented. We came to know that conflict causes a great deal of loss and it is the cultivation of Peace that can stop conflicts. Moreover, the session briefed the floor on human rights and promotion of the same. A role play made the session more comprehensible and practical.
The connection and similarity between GNH and EIU was shown to the floor through the initiatives of Mr. Udhim of Yebilaptsa MSS. The participants thoroughly enjoyed the integration of EIU with GNH in Yebilaptsa MSS. At the end of the session, the floor came together to integrate EIU with GNH. The participants improved on the activities designed in session one, with added exposure and information.
The gathering came together and viewed the initiatives taken by Mendrelgang MSS, where waste management was practiced to a great extent. It was an eye opening experience for the club members as they derived a lot of inspiration from the school that put in so much effort to do waste management.
This was it with regard to EIU. The next session was the most important part of the workshop where the understanding of the floor was tested through question answer session. The floor revisited the sessions and cleared their doubts. I felt satisfaction run down my spine as I could see some brightness in the eyes of the students.
After learning so much on peace, it would have been unfair if we didn’t write down some messages to others. Therefore, we developed a peace tree where participants wrote down peace messages and decorated it with their utmost creativity. The messages were hung on a small tree branch which would be placed in the assembly ground the next day for the rest of the students to get the importance of peace. It was a successful activity with students at their best creativity and intentions.
Sadly, in interest of time, we said amigo to the fun filled course on Education for a culture of peace and sustainable future. The participants had their dinner, with new found information ignited in their minds, pledging to promote peace and working towards a sustainable future. After all they know … it is the students who will be the future of our nation.

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed.”  ~UNESCO Preamble

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Dying Lake Calls For Your Help...

Beauty is best and in its truest form, when the thing of beauty is natural.

The lake when it was clean and at its best.

The world is losing, at an alarming rate, all its natural diversity to modern development and changes. Green natural forests turn into lofty crowd of skyscrapers. Water bodies are not always crystal clear and clean. The number of endangered animals is on a rise. We ought to do something. Global thinkers are thinking but with little support and action. These thoughts made me to give a closer view at a lake near my school.

Samtengang is a small plateau located in Wangdue, Bhutan. The place is a small heaven with a suitable climate and a birds eye view of the lower villages. The place is known for its wonderful location and some know it by the presence of a lake. The lake is locally known as Luetsho. Some call it the blind lake.

water level has decreased by 70 %

 The lake has a rich history connected to it. Legend speaks of the miraculous formation of the lake. Most local people speak of this same story about the lake.

In an unknown time in the past, the place where the lake is situated today was a vast agricultural field owned by a local farmer. One day, a beautiful lady came to the farmer while he was guarding his barley in the field. The lady asked the farmer to go home and rest while she agreed to guard the field. The exhausted farmer agreed. When the farmer returned the next day, he got the surprise of his life. His field was replaced  by a vast stretch of water. The field turned into a lake and the beautiful lady was none other than the mermaid (Tsho- moem) of the lake. The farmer got so furious that he started to dig at the south side of the lake so that he could drain out the water. At this, the mermaid came and begged him to stop the act.  She promised him wealth with a gift of a mythical bull, commonly known as Tsho Lang. Again, the farmer agreed and so did the lake remained at this place.
This is one story of many stories about the lake.

Turning into an ugly swampy area
The lake was then received warmly by the community and respected its presence like any other natural body. Bhutanese believe that a lake brings prosperity to the community nearby, so did the samtengang people. We also talk of spirits dwelling in such natural elements.The lake played home to variety of avian life. Some people talk of different species of fish that used to be a part of the lake. Every visitor viewed the lake with respect and admiration. 
this particular weed is the most rampant one

 Now, Luetsho is but dying a slow death.  The lake is getting covered by weeds. The weeds are winning the war as they grow at a fast pace. Moreover, the stream that provides water to the lake is nowhere to be seen. Fish are dying and water birds does not frequent the place like before. Water level is decreasing. The lake is in dire need of a major restoration.

 Such birds are now rarely seen at the lake
Samtengang Middle Secondary School, being the closest neighbour, tries to restore it with some budget from the government but the work seems beyond the capacity of the school. Starting in 2009, the school has been pulling out weeds from the lake, and cleaning the surroundings but the weeds grow back overnight. Owing to a bitter accident at the lake side involving a student's death earlier this year, the school has stopped to work at the lake. However, the school restored the fencing with government budget. Looking at the current situation, the lake is sure to disappear in the near future.

Avian life find it difficult to live under such a blanket of weed
We are going to lose a significant natural body if something is not done. I believe that a water body is also a plus point from the scientific point of view. The lake helps to moderate the climatic conditions of the place and also aids in the maintenance of the natural food chain. On a layman's scale, the lake is a piece of natural beauty, untouched. It is used for various purposes. We can use it as a tourist spot or a film shooting spot. The schools can use it for teaching learning purposes. An environmentalist will have comprehensive points on the advantages of the lake.

The only part of the lake which is clear and believed to be  the eye of the lake

The idea here is not of the lake's beauty or uses but of its current status. Let us revive the lake and be proud for being a part of a noble deed. It can be a call to the Samtengang community, or government authorities, or environment enthusiasts.  We hold equal responsibility. It would be wise to keep up a natural lake, when people take pain and budget to develop artificial lakes  in some parts of the world.The lake is literally crying for help. We have to do something before it turns into another ugly bog.

The most beautiful weed that invades the lake