Employment: Children living in the rural pockets of Dagana always look forward to the month of December.

This is because it is the month when they can get temporary jobs and make some money during their two and half months winter break.

Dorji Chedup, 15, has worked as a mandarine collector every winter since he was 11 years old. The class VII student of Dagapela Middle Secondary School, wakes up at 7am everyday and gets himself ready to collect mandarine.

Dorji has many friends like him earning Nu 300 a day.

With the money he makes during the winters, he is able to pay for his own school expenses. He has been doing this job for the last three winters and he said he will continue to do so for as long as he can.

“I have always been longing for the winter months to arrive because then I can engage myself fully and earn for myself,” he said.

He added that working in a group with friends has always been fun and getting paid at the end of the day was satisfying.

Dorji said that when he first began working as a mandarine collector at the age of 11, he was not able to carry a full basket of the fruit like the others, who were older and stronger than him. “I tried hard because at that time the only fear I had in my mind was being fired,” he said.

Dorji has nine siblings. With the earnings he makes every winter, he is today, even able to help some of his siblings.

Dorji said that usually by the end of the mandarine season, he is able to pocket more than Nu 10,000. Some of it, he is also able to keep aside as pocket money.

Like Dorji, Tshering Phuntsho, 14, also began working as a mandarine collector last year.

Tshering Phuntsho, who is from Langthil in Trongsa lives in Dagapela with his parents. While the work is tough for him and he struggles to lift a basket full of mandarine, he said that at the end of the day he is satisfied.

“I’ve seen a lot of my friends get temporary jobs and I personally feel that the winter vacation is a time when we can help our parents and ourselves,” he said.

Dorji said he is aware that parents are worried at the start of every academic session as a large chunk of their income has to be spent on buying necessities for their children.

He added that by utilising the winter vacations to earn helps take the burden off one’s parents.

Dorji and Tshering, along with some of their friends started working as mandarine collectors a week ago. They plan to continue until the end of the mandarin season.

Like Dorji and Tshering, there are many other students engaged in collecting mandarine during the winters.

Sonam, 38, a farmer from Tashiding, said the collectors are an example for students elsewhere. “They’re showing that they are helping their parents in whatever little way possible and also as an example that children can also contribute to the livelihoods of the family by not indulging in drugs and other unnecessary stuff,” he said.

The mandarine season started from mid-November and lasts till mid-January.

Yeshey Dema | Dagana