Chimi Dema | Tsirang

Had it been a normal year, Tenzin (name changed), a class XII student of Damphu Central School, Tsirang would be attending lessons and preparing for upcoming board examination in December.

But today, he is seen busy, along with a group of youth, at Municipal construction site in Damphu.

With schools closed since March in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, Tenzin said that it is not a good idea to stay all-day home idle.

“I have online lectures going on but I manage to study and complete the task at night and during Sundays,” he said. “Coming from a rural family, I can also help my parents with income in addition to covering my own expenses.”

Like Tenzin, seven other students from Damphu middle secondary and central schools have taken up the blue-collar jobs in the meantime.

They get Nu 500 a day for helping skilled workers in constructing public structures at the artificial turf ground. They work from 8am until 5pm.

Another student, who has worked for almost a month now plans to buy a mobile phone with the monthly wage. He said that he wanted to reduce the financial burden on his parents.

“It has become a necessity now,” he said.

The students said that they were getting bored at home, having nothing to do after the online lessons. They commit at least one to two hours every night for studies.

Their parents have no problem with them working at the construction site.

The only female student in the group was accompanied by her mother at work. She said that she used to do similar temporary jobs during winter vacation.

“The income helps me buy the school accessories,” she said.

A class XI student, Sonam said that the job, although tiring was quite an experience which would be helpful in the future.

“I am looking forward to continuing this work until school reopens.”

The Principal Engineer with Damphu municipal office, Tshewang Tenzin said that the youth helped to fill in the labour shortage.

“We were facing labour shortage following the closure of the border gates in light of the pandemic,” he said. “This had also impeded our work progress.”

The only problem was that the local labourers demand higher wages, he said. 

The students asked not to reveal their identity fearing stigma from others in the school.