During question hour on June 23, 2023, National Assembly (NA) Member of Parliament (MP), from Tashichhoeling Constituency, Dil Maya Rai asked the minister, Ministry of Education and skilled development (MoESD), Jai Bir Rai about plans to increase opportunities for the persons with disabilities in the future, for further studies. She said that parents of disabled children in Special Education Needs (SEN) Schools are seen facing the problems of continuing education once they cross the age of 16.
The MP cited examples of the students who graduate from Changangkha Middle Secondary School at the age of 16. “This lack of a transition policy leads to discontinuation of studies for many students, despite the fact that approximately 126 students graduate from the school every year.” The MP also shared that despite Draktsho, Ability Bhutan Society (ABS), and other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) supporting the students, some are left behind.
The MP further referred to the national policy for disabled persons, 2019, which specifies that individuals with disabilities should be provided education up to the college level and that it is the government’s responsibility.
In response to the MP’s questions, the Minister clarified that there are misconceptions regarding the educational opportunities available to persons with disabilities after the age of 16. He shared that there are still students in the school who continue their studies even at the age of 20.
The minister said that students who are visually impaired and those with hearing problems are sent to Khaling Muenselling Institute at Trashigang and Wangsel institute for deaf at Paro, respectively.
“The Khaling Muenselling Institute has a system in school itself to accommodate these students and enable them to pursue higher education successfully.” However, the minister added that the Wangsel Institute does not currently provide opportunities for graduates to continue their studies within the same institution after twelfth grade.
Nevertheless, the minister said that there are plans to develop opportunities for these students to pursue higher education within the Wangsel Institute itself.
The minister also said that they are aiming to introduce the intake of disabled individuals under the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB). The minister also mentioned the provision of various skilling programs tailored to individuals with significant disabilities. He also highlighted collaborative efforts with the ABD and the establishment of multi-service centers (MSC) in Thimphu, Gelephu, Phuentsholing, and Monggar.
“These centers, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, aim to support people with disabilities in achieving self-sustainability and independence by providing financial aid and comprehensive services,” the minister said.
Currently there are about 15,566 people with disability in the country of which about 200 are employed.
Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu