On October 11th, 2011, on my way back from my internship at Jigme Losel Primary School, I witnessed a car jump over the side walk into a crowd of students who had just got out of school. I was very worried about how the students were, but at the same time too shocked to go close to see how they were doing, so I just stood there for a while in the distance. A couple of parents and laborers ran over to the scene to check on them and call the police.
The following week, on October 18, 2011, I asked one of the principal’s about the incident and as we spoke, I asked “Are they going to put fences along the sidewalk to protect the students?” Her answer was “No, We can teach them but not protect them. They have to learn from the accident.” At first I was surprised at her answer, because after the accident happened, I thought to myself “After this accident, they are definitely going to put some fences or something along the sidewalk.” And on my way to the school the following week, I was even expecting to see people working on putting fences along the sidewalk.
Living in America, where everything is put in place for the protection of students, I guess this was my natural reaction to the incident; however, it’s a different view in many other societies. In some societies children aren’t “babied”, they have to take on big responsibilities from very young age. And this is what I have observed in Bhutan; very young children between ages 5-8 walking long distances from home to school. So I guess, the principal sees the students as responsible for their own safety once they exit the gates of the school. The school is responsible for teaching the students and cannot keep track of how every single one of them once the leave school, they need to be responsible.
At the same time, in this case, I’d say the students were being responsible since they were walking on the sidewalk as they usually do, but it was the fault of the driver who jumped the sidewalk and hit them.
I believe this is such a complicated case, where the children may be protecting themselves, but the drivers are the ones being irresponsible. At the same time, here in Bhutan, drivers are also expected to protect themselves since there are no traffic lights. They need to discipline themselves without these conveniences and make sure they are protecting themselves, so I think, this is a society where everyone is expected to do the right thing and make sure they are protecting themselves, because the school or transportation authority can’t be responsible for what each person is doing. From this experience I believe people here in Bhutan are expected to protect themselves without conveniences others in developed countries have.