Students working in the RNR field. (picture courtesy RNR Wengkhar)
Students in the east are having a better recreation option than just sitting around in the house playing videos games or indulging themselves in illegal activities. The students from around the community of Wengkhar Renewable Natural Resources, Research and Development Centre in Mongar involve themselves with the lighter works, such as weeding, basin making, farm yard manure application, irrigation, grass cutting appropriate to the students to fill up the labour shortages during peak season in RNR-RDC Wengkhar.
A total of 35 students are involved for 2 weeks on orchard management during winter. These students also include children of the staffs already working in the RNR facility. This trend of “employing” students began in 2012 with the objective of engaging students during their free time with an opportunity to earn money to meet their expenses. While the children enhance their farming skills the centre can also reduce its labour shortage.
Although the works given to children are not hard labour it has helped the centre cope up with the seasonal labour shortage very well. Enthusiastic children return during the summer and help the centre in weed management activities. When the students are not involved, most works are done by the full time Elementary Service Personals (ESPs), about 20 of them at the centre, Research Assistants and staffs while casual labourers are also hired when needed.
RNR officials say that the number of students they temporarily employ depends on the fund available to them, “On average, say 20 to 25. Sometimes goes up to more than 30 also. In order to give equal opportunities, what we do is estimate the work to be done and based on the funds we split them into two or three groups for a certain number of days for each group within the budget available with us and give equal opportunity to them,” one of the officials said. Normally the students get Nu 215 per day.
The centre provides opportunities to staffs’ children and children from nearby community mainly as social support as the centre is located in a village called Wengkhar. The neighbors are farming communities thus the children are from humble background.
“Primarily, in this case, the objectives of the children are to earn some money. The learning part is secondary. It will eventually help them as well because most of their parents have the same crops that we have on station and through field work the experience they get can be useful to them in their own field as well,” said Lhap Dorji, Program Director of RNR-RDC Wengkhar.
The officials said that apart from the group of community students, graduates from CNR, Sherubtse College and some other colleges as well who mainly come for academic and experiential learning also come as interns. Recently, a group of 11 students from Sherubtse (Life Science) completed an internship.
While there are concerns among the parents and the police of some students getting involved in drug smuggling and other violence during the vacation, activities like this have created a trend of spending time effectively among the children as well. This has also increased people applying for interns or similar temporary jobs and for that matter; individual internship programs are created for the center.