Students demand an increase in their monthly stipend

Students in Bhutan are demanding an increase in their monthly stipend, highlighting the struggles they face in making ends meet.

Despite receiving monthly stipends of Nu 2,500-3,000, most students find themselves with little left after deductions for their hostel rent and electric bills. This leaves them with insufficient funds to cover necessities, forcing some to rely on their parents for support. 

One of the students in Thimphu mentioned the amount of stipend paid for the mess students is based on the cost of vegetables and the electric bills at the end of the month, leaving them with Nu 800 only. However, he claims that sometimes even that is taken for other functions in their college.

When asked about suggestions on increasing or fully retaining the stipend without allocating it for other expenses, he said, “If the government helped the students with food accommodation or if the government can help to bear our electric bills, the currently given stipend is enough. However, if we are to pay for these expenses by ourselves, I suggest the government increase our stipend.”

As for the students of Gedu College of Business Studies, a student studying there mentioned that for mess students they get Nu 2,500 as a stipend, out of which Nu 2,250 will be taken as mess fee and Nu 250 as rent.

She adds, “As for those students who are self-catering students, like myself, we get Nu 2,250 as a stipend as Nu 250 is deducted as rent, and some amount for electrical bills. When the remaining money is not enough to buy our groceries, we end up asking our parents.”

Another student from Sherubtse College said, “Getting an additional stipend will help us to meet our daily needs without worrying about the money and without asking our parents. Furthermore, I don’t belong to a stable family background it is hard to manage the monthly expenses within the stipend.”

She also requests the financing officials present transparent criteria in stipend allocation as many students complain that they don’t get the supposed amount and are always told that it is being deducted from rent.

Tshering Yangzom expressed that she is grateful to the government for the service they provide to the students, but she notes that surviving with such an amount in a month in this century would not be possible.

Ministry of Finance say

When asked if the government has any new plans where they even give some stipends to the self-funding students or the students from economically challenged backgrounds, the MoF mentioned that the criteria are being set by RUB and only the students who are eligible for government scholarships will be provided stipends. Since self-funding students are not on scholarships, they are not eligible for any stipend.

Additionally, MoF responded that education and in particular scholarship must be merit-based, irrespective of the economic background.

Considering the complaints of the students when questioned about the increase in stipend for college students, MoF said, “The government has spent a huge amount of money in building these infrastructures and the amount that is collected from the students is hardly enough to meet the running cost of the hostels and the basic amenities.”

Furthermore, MoF believes that in Bhutan, the government provided services for free to citizens, leading to a sense of entitlement among the population. However, as development progresses, the increasing budgetary requirements for these services pose a risk to fiscal sustainability.

“Despite providing free educational opportunities, and appreciating the amount spent by the government in meeting the living expenses, people complain about inadequacies. Perhaps, people should realize that they have responsibility for their development, and the time has come for cost-sharing. In other countries, students work part-time to meet their living expenses. Fiscal sustainability is a shared responsibility, and if you expect the government to do everything for you, then you can’t blame the government for piling up national debt.”

As students continue to voice their concerns and seek financial support, it is evident that a collaborative effort is needed to address the challenges faced by the education system in Bhutan.

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