Parents look forward for government support

The annual load of educating children has increased due to the pandemic
From the partially cold and cloudy morning, the weather has changed and the sun is at its peak. Norzin Lam, Thimphu’s business center is packed. Shopkeepers seem to have forgotten the affect of the pandemic due to the returns of the last few days, as almost every shop, especially those selling stationaries and clothes are packed, with schools opening from April 4, 2022. The government’s directives that business houses should function with just 50 percent of their customers has fallen on deaf ears.
Karma (name changed), has been walking through the streets of Norzin Lam for more than an hour. He is not window shopping; he is trying to find the cheapest shop to buy essentials required for his daughter, who would be going to school from Monday. He says he has failed as the prices are same in all the shops. 
Like many Bhutanese, Karma, who works in a private firm has also been affected by the pandemic. “We have survived so far because of His Majesty’s kidu. It will be difficult for me to buy everything that my daughter requires,” he says, his eyes reflecting helplessness.
And Karma is not the only one with the predicament. Inside a stationary store, there are more than a dozen adults, presumably parents, with their children. Some have made a list of requirements, while others have it on their phones. “Do you really need the pens? Wouldn’t the refills do?,” a woman asks a boy wearing a batman shirt, silently standing in a corner. He does not reply and the woman removes the pen from the bundle of books and stationaries in-front of her. Perhaps, she is cutting costs. 
Another woman with a boy enters the shop. “If only you had taken care of your shoes and uniforms, we wouldn’t have had to buy it this year. Do you know that we are not rich like others,” I hear her telling the boy, who is probably her son. I am not eavesdropping; I just hear it.
According to a parent, whose daughter studies in Class VI, the expenses incurred just for buying stationaries and uniforms are more than Nu 6,000. “I am not even calculating the expenses for school bag, tiffin, water bag, umbrella, face masks, hand sanitizers and others,” she says, adding that when she, a civil servant earning a decent pay faces such problems, she cannot fathom what the others, especially the poorer sections of the society would be going through.
Prices have soared too, with fuel process reaching heights never attained before. “I am not saying that the government, like in the past, should give everything free. But during times like today, the government’s intervention especially to help the poorer sections  would be great,” a corporate worker says. “The government could do away with school uniforms just for this year, provide about 50 percent of the note books and stationaries required and it will not be a huge sum,” he adds. 
Some are concerned that there may be cases of drop-outs and reduced enrollment. “Imagine a family who has four children going to school or a family extensively hit by the pandemic, who already have children studying and one who had reached the age of six. Choices will need to be made and the probabilities of making one child drop-out and not enrolling the youngest are high,” Rinchen Dorji, another private employee said.
With schools slated to begin on April 4 for the senior students, some parents say that any government assistance is late. However, there are others who say schools for thousands of children at the junior levels have still not opened. “If the government really and genuinely wishes to help, there is still time. Even if parents have already procured books and stationaries, these are not perishable goods. It can be used later,” Sonam Dorji from Olakha, Thimphu added.