The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, January 27, 2014

A footnote to the first chapter in the history of modern education in Bhutan

A footnote to the first chapter in the history of modern education in Bhutan

In-kalimpongFirst batch of Bhutanese student with Raja Tobgyal in Kalimpong (1914) Photo courtesy: Dr Tandi Dorji
Anagarika Dharmapala, founder of the Maha Bodhi Society, may have played an influential role

Education: In 1914, a group of 46 Bhutanese boys left for Kalimpong, India to study. They were the first batch of Bhutanese students to study modern education, enrolled in Dr Graham’s Homes.

Among them was Babu Tashi, father of Supreme Court chief justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye. Exactly 150 years later on January 18, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye joined the Maha Bodhi Society in Kolkata to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala.

Other notable students were Babu Gongloo, father of the former chief operation officer of the royal Bhutan army, goongloen Lam Dorji, and the first veterinary doctor Karchung and Dr Phenchung.

In the same year, Bhutan’s first school was also opened in Haa, with teachers from the Church of Scotland mission. There were around 28 students.

Anagarika Dharmapala, who founded the Maha Bodhi Society in 1891, was not happy with Bhutan sending its students to Darjeeling and Kalimpong to study in “Christian schools”. He strongly objected and cautioned Bhutan for sending Bhutanese students to the “wrong school” and wrote thus to the Raja Ugyen. The handwritten letter was addressed to one Sherpa to be submitted to Raja Ugyen.

46 Bemapur Lane, Calcutta, dated November 19, 1914

I learn that about 20 Bhutanese boys have been brought to Darjeeling to be taught English, and that they have been entrusted to the missionaries. That is bad news. Why could not the Bhutan Raj open a school in their own state and teach the youths English. When a Buddhist who is ignorant of Buddhism is put into a Christian boarding school the way of the youth undergo change. He imbibes the habits of the Christians and becomes indifferent to his own religion. The tender mind is very susceptible. What is heard daily is taken as truth and the mind goes wrong. Therefore, our Lord Buddha condemned with emphasis false faiths that with a creator, a savior, and demise the law of karma. Look at the Japanese how they brogues, they open schools and get English and Russian male and female teachers to come over to Japan and the Japanese are taught English…”

What is needed is technical and industrial education. Japan rose from her obscurity because her youths were taught how to manufacture articles which are imported into Japan. A few Bhutanese students should be sent to Japan; also a few students to learn in technical institutes. A country that has no industries remains, poor. I am very anxious about the Bhutan boys. In Ceylon our 200,000 Buddhist boys attending non-Buddhist schools are lost forever. They become Christians after they leave school or become very bad morally. The education of the rising generation should be on national lines. Christian missionaries are not the kind of teachers that Buddhist pupils should have. Submit please to Raja Ugyen on the very important subject…”

The letter from the founder could be one reason why another school was established in Bumthang in the following year, 1915, said Chief Justice Sonam Tobgye, who maintained his late father’s diary.
First batch of students in Bumthang (1915) Photo courtesy: Dr Tandi Dorji

There were 21 students, including the Crown Prince Jigme Wangchuck, and some children of the people serving in the king’s court. Babu Nagchung, who started Dzongkha Kuensel as an official news bulletin in 1965, was among 21 students to study English and Tibetan/Dzongkha in Bumthang.

However, Bhutanese students continued their studies at the Scottish mission school. In 1920, four students were sent to be trained as doctors, veterinary doctors and teachers in India.

The chief justice said Dharmapala is one of the illustrious sons of Sri Lanka, who made monumental contribution to the cause of Buddhism, the Buddhist revival and the nationalist awakening in Sri Lanka.

“He was a peerless missionary of Buddhism, who carried the message of the Buddha across the world,” he said.

Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye also said the Dharmapala presented Buddhism as consistent with science, especially the theory of evolution.

He was convinced that any movement for the emancipation of the people would have to go hand in hand with the revival of the national culture. He lamented furiously over the cultural, religious and national decline, and developed a firm determination to fight against the escalation of the foreign power in the country.

“Dharmapala’s enthusiasm and tireless efforts inspired many generations and his transcending vision and compassionate thought traversed to then unknown Bhutan,” the chief justice said.

Bhutan celebrated a yearlong sherig centenary (May 2, 2012-February 21, 2013), although Bhutan’s journey to modern education turns 100 years only this year.
By Rinzin Wangchuk

Grants tote up to Nu 71B for 11th Plan

Development partners and international donors released Nu 7.6B so far

The country will receive Nu 71B as grant from development partners and international organisations in the 11th Plan.

Of them all, India committed the highest amount of Nu 50B – Nu 28B under project tied grant, Nu 8.5B as grants for medium programs and another Nu 8.5B as small development grants, besides the economic stimulus plan of Nu 5B.

As of December 2013, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said of the committed Nu 50B, India had released Nu 5.9B.

“Of that Nu 850M was under program grant, Nu 169M for project-tied assistance and Nu 2.5B for economic stimulus plan,” he said. “India will soon release any amount for the small development programs.”

The prime minister was responding to opposition leader’s question on whether there was any downsizing of the 11th Plan.

Among three changes made to terms and conditions on availing grants from India in the 11th Plan, the country would contribute additional Nu 2.8B or 10 percent to project-tied assistance from Government of India that fund larger projects.

Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay said this would symbolise the projects being jointly undertaken by governments of the two countries.

“Bhutan’s 10 percent contribution would be used only at the end of the project to meet escalations in project costs,” he said.

The second change in the terms and conditions was increasing the budget ceiling for projects under the program grant from Nu 30M to Nu 50M.

“The government is still holding dialogues over what kind of projects to include in the program,” Lyonchhoen said. “The final change is to employ 200 graduates to complement proper implementation of Indian government funded projects.”

There was, Lyonchhoen said, however, no change in the terms and conditions with international organisations and development partners on receiving the grants or loans.

As of December 2013, Development partners and international financial institutions including Denmark, Switzerland, European Union, Global Environment Fund, ADB, World Bank, Austria and international organisations have released more than Nu 1.7B.

The commitment from international organisations and development partners increased from Nu 58B to Nu 66B following the round table meeting held in Thimphu.

The government has, until December last year, released more than Nu 5.8B for capital works of the total more than Nu 18B allotted for the Plan.

“More than Nu 2.5B received from Indian government has not been released as it has not yet received Parliament approval,” Lyonchhoen said.

The budget outlay of the Plan, as the Parliament approved in September 2013 stands at Nu 213B.

“We’re are assessing 44 business proposals that have been denied since the last three years and looking into how we can help them,” he said.

Before the question hour began, the Parliament observed a minute of silence in memory of the late Drabi Lopen Kinley Gyeltshen whose cremation was held at the same time as the joint sitting yesterday.

One question that was left unanswered came from South Thimphu Parliament member Yeshey Zimba, who raised the issue of people from northern borders encroaching into Bhutanese territory for cordycep collection.

By Tshering Palden