PM Urges Unified Action as Yonphula Specialized School Sparks

YANGCHEN LHAMO

Thimphu

As Bhutan stands at the precipice of confronting its escalating drug crisis, the impending launch of the Yonphula Specialized School emerges as both a beacon of hope and a catalyst for contentious debate within the nation. Positioned as a vital instrument in the fight against substance abuse among youth, the school’s establishment has stirred a dynamic exchange of perspectives, reflecting both optimism and apprehension within Bhutanese society.

At the forefront of this discourse stands, Prime Minister (PM) Dasho Tshering Tobgay, who, in a recent meet-the-press session, issued a resounding call to arms, urging citizens to unite in combating the scourge of drug abuse in educational settings. His impassioned plea comes amidst mounting concerns surrounding the Yonphula Specialized School, slated to cater to students grappling with substance use-related challenges.

The government’s announcement regarding transforming Yonphula into a specialized institution has prompted questions regarding the consultation process with parents and students. Some have voiced apprehensions regarding potential repercussions, including discrimination against students attending the specialized school.

In response, PM emphasized the imperative of collective support in addressing this pervasive issue, reaffirming the government’s unwavering commitment to the school’s mission of providing essential support and treatment to affected students.

Deki, a mother, voiced her apprehensions regarding the proposal to send students struggling with substance use disorder to a special school. She believes this could have adverse mental effects, as the separation from their parents and the unfamiliar environment of a boarding school might be challenging for them to manage.

She emphasized that everyone makes mistakes and argued that these students should be given a second chance within their current supportive surroundings.

Acknowledging the complex nature of substance abuse, the PM attributed students’ engagement in drug use to a myriad of factors, including personal struggles and peer pressure.

He underscored the profound impact of drug abuse on students’ cognitive and emotional well-being, warning of the potential for widespread entrenchment in destructive behaviors. Contrary to punitive measures such as incarceration, the PM advocated for the rehabilitative approach of specialized schools, positioning them as sanctuaries for healing and transformation.

Echoing the sentiments of the PM, Education Minister Yeezang D Thapa outlined the comprehensive approach of the Yonphula Specialized School, emphasizing the integration of education, therapy, and support services. Addressing concerns regarding the timeline for the school’s commencement, Lyonpo Yeezang clarified logistical considerations necessitated a postponement to early next year.

Despite the government’s proactive measures, public sentiment remains divided, with some expressing reservations about the potential consequences of segregating students grappling with substance abuse. Parents, too, have raised valid concerns regarding the lack of consultation and due process in establishing the specialized school.

Kinley, a concerned parent, has expressed support for the proposal to send students engaged in substance abuse to a special school. Kinley believes this initiative would be beneficial, as it would help these students distance themselves from harmful substances and refocus on their studies.

Additionally, this measure would alleviate the burden on parents, offering them reassurance and support in managing their children’s recovery and academic progress.

As Bhutan navigates the complexities of addressing substance abuse in schools, the importance of upholding human rights, promoting inclusivity, and fostering collective responsibility cannot be overstated.

With concerted efforts and a commitment to dialogue, the nation can chart a course toward a safer, healthier future for its youth. The Yonphula Specialized School stands as a symbol of Bhutan’s resolve to confront this pressing challenge head-on, as the nation embarks on a journey toward greater awareness, understanding, and support in the fight against substance abuse.

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