Education: Building future in America
America is a land of opportunity; opportunity comes with education. Immigrant communities with English language educational background are expected to do well whether it is at entry level jobs, performance at community colleges, or admission to universities.
The Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal were reported to have achieved 100 percent primary school enrollment. It was then a thesis that the refugee parents emphasized on children’s education. The Caritas Nepal, the AUSTCARE, UNHCR and individual donors had provided scholarships to the school graduates to continue with higher education. There was a time when the Bhutanese refugee students filled the higher secondary classes and college departments in Jhapa, Morang and the Hills of north Bengal. The UNHCR reported time and again that Bhutanese refugee community could serve as a role model for empowerment and development of the disadvantaged communities.
Undoubtedly, the sacrifices made by the senior members of our community were appreciable. Refugee teachers worked hand-in-hand with educational staffs of Caritas Nepal to design curriculum, to impart teachers training and to run schools at primary and secondary levels. They worked with little incentives, as low as USD 10 a month, with the hope that someday the refugee children would restore the lost prestige of the Nepali Bhutanese community in Bhutan.
The hope we had when we filled the third countries migration form seems vanishing fast in our community. I got this impression while meeting community leaders and visiting resettled Bhutanese members in Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Richmond, Lancaster, and Riverdale in eastern USA. The complaints are not for long-hours of work at entry level jobs; rather the complaints and worries are about the future of their children.
Since 2008, of about 50 Bhutanese students graduating from high schools in Georgia, only three got admission into four-year university colleges. The results are similar in other states if not worst for comparison. Those who have joined the community colleges are not clear about their future. They complain many hours of ESL classes and pre-requisite course works before transferring credits to four-year colleges and professional schools. The frustration is high in cases where a four-year university colleges only accept a few number of course credits even after having taken years of courses in the community colleges.
The worrying factors in parents are psychological in nature. Children are taught in schools to become more independent. It has been misinterpreted by our children as to ignore advices from parents, relatives and seniors even though they could be instrumental for their school education.
The loss of faith of our youngsters for advice and guidance from our seniors is indeed a concern for our community. We must be able to relate to events in the refugee camps when our senior educated lots took classes under shed of the trees to give continuity to schooling before CARITAS Nepal and UNHCR surfaced in the scene. There is a need again here in the US to pull together our community resources to bridge the gap between the emerging younger lots and our seniors who have given so much during our struggling years in the camps.
The need of the hours is to give a vision to the future generation. We are not a small community by any measure. For Bhutan, we are one-seventh of the country’s population living in overseas countries where access to education and business opportunities are plenty. For Nepal, we represent almost 30% of ethnic Nepali community in the US, which have, if nothing, spent more than two decades in that soil. We can create an impact at decision-making level of these countries if we work together to focus our attention at children’s education.
Popular writers, business leaders, university professors and pioneers in research should be our aim for future generation. Investment on children’s education is the surest and short-cut routes to those dreams; we don’t need much resources of our own here in the US.
We have seen with our own eyes how Ram Siwakoti, our fellow refugee from Beldangi camp, secured Bill Gates Millennium scholarship to go to Georgia Tech for professional education. All Ivy leagues and other top ranking universities provide scholarships to merit students. Our children could join Harvard, Yale, Princeton and other top rankings universities and colleges provided they qualified in the standardized tests and do well in the school. Ability to pay is not a criterion for admission.
To begin with, it might be a good idea to start a motivation campaign. Our community organizations should work towards identifying the role models from within our community to motivate our children. It would also be good to create profiles of the successful members from within our community. They should be encouraged to address our school going children at various functions giving motivational speeches with background of their success stories, emphasizing on reading habits, peers networking, inter-state competitions in essay writings, debate, culture events and games. With the increasing confusion among the parents, there is also a dire need to bridge gap between the parents and the schools for proper understanding on how the children are performing in the schools. That only could happen if educated members from within our community could volunteer their time for helping establish the communication link.
We will be a proud Bhutanese community if our students get into such prestigious universities and do well in life. There is a need for us to make a beginning; there is a need for us to build a strong and vibrant society; there is a need for us to forget the past and work in unity for the future. Cooperation and coordination among our seniors, leaders and community members is the need of the hour. The primary focus should be the emerging generation and their education.