About 30 students are packing oranges at a depot in S/jongkhar to pay their school expenses
Vacation: Although it’s difficult to stay away from their parents and miss out the winter vacation fun, some 30 students from Wangphu gewog have chosen to take up part time jobs in Samdrupjongkhar and earn a little before returning to school.
The group of girls decided to come with one of the adults from the village who supplies oranges to a contractor after he informed them that he could help them earn money a little by getting them work at an orange depot in Samdrupjongkhar.
For the last 15 days, these students have been packing oranges for one of the orange exporters, which they said was not difficult and could fetch them enough money to buy uniform and stationaries.
Wangphu is a remote gewog and about 84km from Samdrupjongkhar. This is the first time they have come to do a temporary job away from home and said that apart from learning and earning, it was a good experience.
One of them is 19-year old Sonam Choden from Orong high school. “Last year when I first joined the boarding school, my parents had a difficult time arranging money,” she said. “They had to borrow money to buy mattress and blanket and it made me sad.” This time, she said, it was an opportunity to earn money for her school items.
Like her many shared the similar stories and said they would use the money they earn to buy school uniforms and stationaries for them as well as their siblings. Some said they would help their parents clear the ration debts with shopkeepers.
The students are paid Nu 10 a box that contains about 280 oranges. Divided in pairs, each pair packs about 56 boxes.
“In the beginning it was difficult to pack since it was our first time but the owner was kind enough to teach us for two days on the packing technique,” Jamyang Choden, 13, said. “We work hard to pack as much as we can so that we could earn more because I want to buy those things which I couldn’t ask my parents for.”
Without families and relatives in Samdrupjongkhar, all students between 13 to 20 years old live together inside the depot.
The contractor has provided them a cook, as it proved difficult for them to cook and work at the same time.
They are also given ration but the cost would be deducted later from their wages. Although the girls lack proper toilet and have an open tarpaulin to sleep on, the poor logistics has not discouraged them from working. Many said they go to the nearest river to bathe and wash their clothes.
“We always have some elders or an adult from our village who guards us at night,” Karma Dema, 17, said. “But we’re here to work so we don’t complain and more over I have to earn before returning to village.”
Many said as per their calculation and based on the coupon they receive everyday that gives the details on how many boxes they have packed, they have by now earned almost Nu 5,000. “Sometime we become tired and sleepy but we encourage each other to work hard,” she said.
Meanwhile, exporter Langa Dorji said these students are enthusiastic and hard working. He said if such enthusiasm was there among Bhutanese students, then exporters wouldn’t have to get labourers from across the border to pack.
“They’re competitive, which speeds up the work and work all night even when we restrict,” he said. “We would definitely accept if they come back next season.”
By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar