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In a long time, the education ministry has come out with a heartening announcement this week when all students are on the brink of going for their winter vacation. The Department of Curriculum Research and Development has declared that henceforth all productive social community work done by students during their vacation will be graded and credited to the students’ SUPW (Socially Useful Productive Work) score. This will be application to students studying in class IX and above.

The announcement takes note that during the winter vacation many students engage themselves meaningfully like helping parents in their farms or by taking up temporary jobs to earn a supplementary income to buy school uniforms and stationeries for the coming year. Some take up voluntary work while others engage in delivering community services.

 The Department has urged teachers, students, parents and guardians to take note of this new initiative and has even set up a toll free helpline number – 185 – for further clarification on the initiative. The toll free number has been called the ‘Lopon link’.

This move is refreshing.

It will definitely encourage students to use their vacation meaningfully. Accounting how they have spent their vacation will give students a direction and an incentive to become more responsible.

The winter vacation is a time for our students to be with family members and take a respite from academic books and the sometimes grueling classroom teachings. But we all know that it has always meant different things to students of different backgrounds. For many students coming from urban centers and comfortable family upbringing, the vacation is an opportunity to while their time away, sometimes in meaningless engagements. For students coming from poor families and for many of our rural students, it is also a time to prepare themselves for another year of schooling ahead which also means having to look for jobs to earn hard cash to sustain themselves for the coming year.

While many students urge their parents to take them for vacations to Bangkok or Phuentsholing, we see the less fortunate ones work on road construction sites, in gypsum and coal mines, as temporary office clerks and also as day helps to pluck oranges earning meager sums in wages. The hardships these students have to endure touches our hearts.

Under such circumstances, the education ministry’s move is welcoming. As parents and guardians, it is also our duty to be a part of this noble initiative and urge our students to value their free time and engage themselves meaningfully. Having said that, it does not mean that all our students have to do physical work and put themselves to endure the difficult realities of life. Rather, we can still encourage our students to have fun and spend their time meaningfully. It would be a successful vacation if a student reads about ten good books. Therefore, the education ministry has indeed sent us a mindful reminder by starting this initiative. Now, it is up to us to make it a success and be part of this noble initiative of helping our children grow up with values.