When a child reaches the age of six, it is time to enroll in School. It is a time when children learn new things, mingle with friends and interact with each other. But not many are privileged enough and they are deprived of such opportunities and later get into child labor for various reasons.
Sixteen year old Sunil Limbu from Tendruk Gewog under Samtse Dzongkhag was one such child once, given away by his mother sometime in November, 2010 for hire to Phub Nidup originally from Haa to work for him in exchange for 27 CGI sheets, 50 kg of rice, three bed sheets, one school bag and a Tiffin-box.
Fortunately for him, he was rescued by local officials and the Tendruk Gup Pema Wangchu last year and later the Gup enrolled the boy in school in the same year in Jumsa Community School.
With an ambition to become an Army Officer and serve the nation, Sunil now enjoys schooling like other students and above all cherishes the chance to learn new things. It has been almost a year since his rescue.
Better late than never, the enrollment showed positive results. Though a little late at his age to be enrolled in class PP, but with his enthusiasm to study, Sunil stood third in class PP and now he is in class I.
Sunil’s scored his highest marks in English (89) and moreover he has learnt to speak fluent Dzongkha.
Sunil’s Class Teacher Druptho Wangdi, said though Sunil is physically huge compared to his class mates “he is a hardworking boy” adding that “Only thing he has to be given is proper guidance from time to time”.
Sunil is also the class monitor of some 25 students.
Similar to Sunil’s case, is his younger brother Saajan Limbu, 15 who was also found grazing other households’ cattle. He was also enrolled in school in class I as he had studied PP. Saajan stood third position from the class topping among 37 students in Mathematics subject with 85 marks.
These boys are enrolled in school as Sunil Subha and Saajan Limbu.
Gup Pema Wangchu said the boys treat him like an elder brother and love him so much and they are thankful to him for the rescue and for enrolling them in school. He also said the boys’ class teacher calls him for anything related to them, be it complaints or information to be passed.
It is said, as many as 4,400 children aged between 13-17 years were found working outside home, as per the Labor Force Survey 2011. The Bhutan multiplier Indicator Survey shows child labor prevalence at 18.4% which comprised mostly girls compared to boys.
These children work in the informal sectors as domestic helpers, street vendors and in automobile workshops and restaurants.
Though many cases of child labor exists in the country most of the cases remain hidden or unreported.
The National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) report also stated that Bhutanese children enter the labor market because of three main reasons such as poverty, broken families and lack of farm hands.
The Constitution of Bhutan states “The state shall provide education to all children of school going age to tenth standard and ensure that technical and professional education is made generally available and that higher education is equally accessible to all on basis of merit.”
Bhutan’s Strategy Paper entitled Bhutan 2020, A Vision for Peace, Prosperity and Happiness’ states that “Basic education is an inalienable right of every Bhutanese”. Moreover the government’s vision is to gain 100% universal primary school enrollment.