Schools will soon close for winter vacation, time for children in rural villages to help their parents with household chores.
In the mandarin growing areas, winter vacation offers a perfect break to earn money, particularly for the school children who buy necessities for the next academic year.
This winter vacation, however, may not give the children what it used to. Mandarin business in places like Pemagatshel is dead, almost.
“I am really worried how I will be able to buy new uniforms, pay for books and other necessities,” said 11-year-old Wezer of Nangkor village. There is no fruit-picking and transporting work this year. But for Wezer, who studies in class five, meeting his own school expenditures with earnings from mandarin picking during winter vacations has been part of his life.
“This is going to be a different winter vacation for me, a difficult one,” says Wezer who has been paying his own rural life insurance premium from the money he made from picking mandarin. He was eight when he first started doing that.
Fifteen-year-old Yeshey too is worried. “There is no work in the orchards anymore,” he said. Yeshey studies in Class VIII.
“May be I should head to a quarry to make a few bucks for the coming academic session,” said a 16-year-old boy from Khar village. Khar, a village that was once the mandarin hub of Pemagatshel, has naught to claim the fame.
Even at the dzongkhag’s food processing plant there isn’t much except pulping from which the students can make some money.
“We used to earn anywhere from Nu 150 to Nu 500 daily picking fruits which came to about Nu 6,000 to Nu 15,000 by the end of the season. This is going to be a difficult winter vacation,” said Tobgay, a Class IX student from Nangkor.