Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MoE dispatches team to investigate syringe case

Following a story by this paper about a Dzongkha teacher’s dangerous and highly risky use of an unsterilized syringe to punish students of Budhashi Community Primary School of Goshing in Zhemgang, a four-member Ministry of Education (MoE) team is currently in the gewog to investigate the accusation.

The investigation process
The investigation team dispatched immediately by the MoE comprises a Dzongkhag Education Officer (DEO), Legal Officer and an Assistant Dzongkhag Education Officer (ADEO) from Zhemgang Dzongkhag Administration. The team received a directive from the Ministry and headed to the site on 18 October. The team reached the site yesterday after a night halt on the way.  The investigation has started and is underway in full steam.
Team leader DEO, Sangay Chophel said all involved are thoroughly questioned and the statements have been taken. Besides the accused teacher, statements were also taken from the Principal, Gup and Tshogpas of Lamtang and Budhashi chiwog.
The investigation team also called and took statements from the parents of the victimized children who were named and quoted in the earlier story by this paper. This included Gup Sangay Letho, Lamtang Tshogpa Dorji Lungtse, Budhashi Tshogpa Rinchen Tshogyal, Chezang, Sangay Dorji and Leki Pelzang, all representatives and parents of the affected children.
When interviewed by The Bhutanese, the parents said that they submitted statements of what is true. They all submitted that it is true that their children were poked by the needle and some of these children have already started getting the adverse implications of such actions of the teacher. “There is no faltering to what has been done,” said one of the affected parents adding that they are not making any blatant accusations.
One of the affected parents, Leki Pelzang when interviewed over the phone said that they waited with their son by the footpath for the investigation team. “The team took pictures of the wound in my son’s buttocks,” he said.
He also said though it was dark but for the sake of emergence of crucial evidence, he waited. The team has asked for a meeting point since the affected households are scattered which will delay the presentation of the report.
Other parents said that due to their illiteracy and innocence, they never realized it could be dangerous. “We agree to certain degree of punishments but this was way too much,” other parents agreed. “Otherwise we respect teacher as someone who gives our children an invaluable asset called education.”
A parent who requested anonymity said, his daughter too was a victim. “She told me yesterday when the news of it spread within the gewog. However, she was lucky to have been saved by a strap of pant’s rubber,” he said.  The neeedle did not wound his daughter.

Case History
The Principal of the school, Tenzin Dorji said he came to know about the issue only when village Tshogpa called him on his cell phone complaining about the issue. “The students didn’t directly report to me rather shared with their parents, who then reported to Tshogpa.”
He first received the call on 25 September. It is therefore difficult to tell since when the Dzongkha teacher had started punishing students with the needle.
The Principal then discussed with the gewog Gup and agreed to convene a Teachers-Parents meeting to discuss the particular issue on 30 September, five days later.
However, the agreed meeting could not convene since the Gup had to leave for an official purpose. The absence of the Gup in such an important meeting could not be compromised.
According to the Principal, the origin of the syringe may be from the science laboratory of the school. “We keep syringe as part of science equipment in our school,” he said.
According to what the accused teacher submitted to the team, he went to the science lab to get one book. That is when he got hold of a syringe.

Preliminary Findings
A finding of the preliminary investigation indicated that the syringe has been used. However, in his statement to the investigation team, the accused teacher denied use of syringe to poke the students. He justified that the syringe was used only to pretend poking in order to scare the students.  The syringe in question has been found in possession of the accused teacher.
“The accused has also confessed that he handled the syringe,” said the team leader adding that the team will now try to verify and ascertain how the teacher has used the syringe to “scare” the students.
The final findings however, will be known after the investigation team completes compilation of the investigative report and submit to the authorities.

Education Minister assures justice if proven guilty
This paper also interviewed Education Minister, Thakur Singh Powdyel.
“The report is deeply disturbing it will be even more unsettling if what is reported turns out to be true.” He further said, “We, in the Education Ministry have been working hard to build a secure and enabling environment, in which our teachers and students can do their work”.
Lyonpo also said, an investigation team has been deputed and we await the report to take necessary action. “If a teacher in Budhashi Community Primary School has been resorting to such unacceptable tactic, all relevant legal provisions will be invoked to bring him to justice.”
“Meanwhile,” Lyonpo said, “We hope the Children are not too badly affected and that the school will be run as an educational institution ought to be run”.
Medical Director General says it is really dangerous.
This paper also approached Dr. Ugen Dophu, Director General of Department of Medical Services (DMS) of Ministry of Health seeking medical opinion on dangers associated to use of such unsterilized needle.
He said, that it is not good in this era of HIV, Hepatatis B and C and Aids. “It is very dangerous,” he said. He asked which teacher will do such a thing.

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