Education and Training

Lo Kunphen

Educational and training opportunities are critical components of any successful grassroot development endeavour. Each of DROKPA's core project areas - community health, alternative energy, and social entrepreneurship - includes support for education and training. DROKPA works to create alliances between local schools and international individuals and organizations dedicated to supporting education. DROKPA also assists schools and other educational institutions by providing them with strategic planning and technical support, including the introduction of alternative energy technologies. By supporting education and training, DROKPA is helping to ensure that present and future generations can bear the responsibility of stewarding their homelands in a rapidly changing world. Several private boarding schools have been established to fulfill the educational needs of culturally Tibetan and Buddhist children from the highlands.

Crystal Mountain School, Dolpo District

At Crystal Mountain School, the children have classes in Nepali, Tibetan, English and math. Unlike normal government schools in Nepal, Crystal Mountain School is concerned about the preservation of local language and culture. As such, students learn to read and write Tibetan. The teachers also give lessons on hygiene and other health issues, to promote overall community health. The school maintains an emergency fund for medical emergencies within the community.

In 2001, DROKPA, with the help of Where There Be Dragons students, raised more than $5000 for Crystal Mountain School in Do Tarap, Dolpo District, Nepal. We have also supplied and distributed in-kind donations such as books and other educational materials. DROKPA's support for Crystal Mountain School has helped them begin their winter school program in Kathmandu, starting in the winter of 2001-02. With this winter program, students are now able to extend their studies for another three months each year, which greatly improves their educational experience and enhances the overall effectiveness of this school in preparing a younger generation for the challenges they face.

Tsharka Valley Mountain School

One of DROKPA's board members has been working for several years with the people of Tsharka village, Dolpo, to support the Tsharka School Committee's efforts at renovating the local government school and revamping this local institution - creating a viable model for primary education in this remote region.

The Tsharka school committee has completed construction of their school building in the summer of 2005. This includes four classrooms, an office, library, and bathroom facilities. Work continues to support the committee with the addition of more teachers, students, uniforms, classroom furniture and supplies. With the help of many individuals and other non-profit sponsors the school continues to grow. This winter, the committee will work in Kathmandu to solidify grants and reports for the 2006 school year.

Kula Mountain School

History: Until very recently, no educational institutions existed in Dolpo, except for small local monasteries. In order for children to attend school, they had to leave their homes. Local people were primarily concerned with their livelihood - animal husbandry, farming, and trading. They did not have a clear idea about how to educate future generations. And yet, there have been and continue to be many changes facing the society, environment and culture of Dolpo. In 2001, a collaboration between a French NGO (Couleurs Himalaya) and the local community began: the Kula Mountain Primary School in Tinje Village Development Committee (Dolpo District, Nepal).

Location: The Panzang Valley of Dolpo District, in which Tinje VDC is located, is one of the most remote parts of Nepal. The Dolpo region borders Tibet, and has been referred to by outsiders as a "last enclave of pure Tibetan culture." In many ways, the landscape and culture of this region are reminiscent not of Nepal, per se, but more of Tibet. But Dolpo has been a part of Nepal since the 18th century. Tinje VDC rests at approximately 4500 meters above sea level, and is home to people who still practice traditional ways of life, although they are also a part of the modern Nepali world. Dolpo is inaccessible for many months of the year due to snowfall. Inhabitants lead a precarious life in a harsh climate and try to grow what food they can from this high, dry land. Most homes are poorly lit, virtually windowless, and cold in the wintertime. Family members gather around small fires made from yak dung and shrubs. They face many hardships due to food shortages, lack of transportation and almost no government services.

School Mission Statement, Rationale, and Future Plans: Kula Mountain Primary School is committed to providing free education to the poor children in this region. The school now has more than 70 students and there is demand for even more places. Through education, the school helps young people acquire skills that will enable them to improve their living conditions and prospects for the future. In addition to the government curriculum (Nepali, English, Math and Science), Kula Mountain also teaches the Tibetan language, to help ensure that the people from these regions will be able to read their histories, keep their cultural traditions alive and write their own futures. Teaching children Nepali is very helpful, as many members of older generations do not speak the national language. Now Kula Mountain School is even teaching adults Nepali.

The The Kula Mountain Primary School was started in a pre-existing, but non-functioning government school building. The original school included five rooms but due to lack of funding and the absence of government teachers, the building was not maintained and fell into disrepair. Since the re-establishment of the school, a school management committee has rebuilt and repaired the building, and is planning to add new rooms. Although stones and mud are readily available, a lack of trees and the expense of importing wood has hampered local efforts. Tinje, like other parts of upper Dolpo, is completely devoid of trees. Timber must be carried on yaks from a distance of 3-5 days away and costs Rs. 400 (US $5) per kilogram.

Winter School: Given the climatic conditions of Dolpo, the Kula Mountain Primary School is forced to close between October and April. Life comes to a standstill as locals move to lower valleys, or migrate to Kathmandu, for approximately three months of the year. With such a short academic season in Dolpo, Kula Mountain Primary School brings students to Kathmandu in the winter, so that they may complete the set school curriculum each year. In this way, students are able to learn more about their country, its people and many cultures. They are also able to make holy pilgrimage to Boudhanath and other places of historical and religious importance. The winter program does not only prove rewarding from an educational point of view, but it also protects children from having to do hard manual work at home, particularly during the winter, and allows them to focus solely on their studies. Dolpo students are now consistently scoring higher on national standard tests than their urban counterparts.

Currently, the Kula Mountain Primary School will continue to educate students through class five. In the future, the school hopes to work together with other schools in Dolpo District to provide a complete lower secondary education curriculum in Tinje and upper secondary schooling in Dolpo District and Kathmandu. The school also aims to help reinforce relations with the village committee, as the school can only survive in the long term with ongoing local community support. The school also aims to provide an adult literacy program and work with community members to develop infrastructure in Tinje VDC. Long-term projects also include: working with local amchi (practitioners of Tibetan medicine) to found an amchi clinic in Tinje; creating a Dolpo museum and cultural center; constructing solar-heated school buildings and greenhouses; creating vocational training programs in traditional arts and handicrafts, such as thangka painting.

About the headmaster: Urken Dorje is the headmaster of Kula Mountain Primary School. He was born in Saldang VDC in Dolpo, where he studied up to class five. At that time, the school in his home village did not have any real educational facilities: no pens, books, uniforms, etc. The school was also in disrepair. After class five, Urken was sent to boarding school in lower Dolpo. However, he was the lone student from upper Dolpo, and his culture, language, and life was not the same as those students from the lowlands. He found this difficult, both socially and in terms of the education he was given. Nonetheless, Urken was graduated from class 10 (SCL pass). After this, he completed class 11 and 12 in Pokhara. Given his personal background and educational history, Urken has been committed from a young age to helping Dolpo schools develop in the future. He joined the Kula Mountaiin Primary School in 2001. He is very happy to be working with the school, and hopes that it is able to improve every year. He would like to help provide future generations of students with more facilities and opportunities. Urken hopes that the future will be bright for young people from Dolpo, and that they will be able to sustain their culture and heritage, and at the same time survive in today's world.

Current and Future Plans: Currently, the Kula Mountain Primary School is educating students through class five. In the future, the school hopes to work together with other internationally-supported boarding schools in Dolpo District to provide a complete lower secondary curriculum in Tinje and upper secondary schooling in Dolpo District and Kathmandu. The school works closely with village committees, as the school can only survive in the long-term with ongoing local community support. The school aims to expand its adult literacy program and work with community members to develop infrastructure like telephones, solar lights solar cookers, and solar water pumps as well as fuel-efficient stoves in Tinje VDC.

Long-term projects also include: working with local amchi (practitioners of Tibetan medicine) to start a clinic in Tinje; creating a Dolpo museum and cultural center; constructing passive solar-heated school buildings and greenhouses; creating vocational training programs in traditional arts and handicrafts, such as thangka painting, leather bags, and woven products.

New Educational Developments in Nepal

DROKPA is now collaborating with local villagers, Village Development Committees, and other NGOs working in Dolpo District to create several new primary schools in the Panzang and Tsharka Valleys. Villagers have established education committees, and are working at the district and national level to secure partial government support for these schools. DROKPA and Couleurs Himalaya, a French NGO, are working under the guidance and collaboration of Action Dolpo and Crystal Mountain School in the creation of these new primary education institutions. Support, in the form of endowment funds and budgets for school construction, are both needed.

DROKPA is also committed to providing appropriate technical and vocational training, such as the training we provided local villagers from Dolpo to learn how to install and maintain alternative energy technologies at the Centre for Rural Technology and Lotus Energy.

In 2004, DROKPA delivered solar lights and solar cookers to the Kula Mountain and Tsharka schools in Dolpo. In addition, DROKPA trained local villagers and funded the construction of the first greenhouses in Dolpo. These greenhouses will improve local nutrition and provide a model for local schoolchildren. This exciting new program is being funded by the International Foundation.

DROKPA also supports schools that provide training in Tibetan medicine, such as the Lo Kunphen Mentsikhang and School in Mustang, Nepal. Your financial assistance will ensure that children not only receive an education, but also acquire critically needed skills to enhance the social and economic viability of their home regions, now and in the future.

Education and Training in Tibetan Areas of China

In 2003, DROKPA granted a multi-year scholarship to Chokyi Drolma, a young woman from Kham (Sichuan Province, PRC) to train in maternal and child health, so that she may better serve as a clinical provider at a local clinic in Dartsendo, Sichuan. Although there are a number of skilled traditional Tibetan medical practitioners in the area, none are trained in safe motherhood techniques or basic western medicine. Rather than risk the confusion that comes from training one person in both the biomedical model and Tibetan medicine simultaneously, we aim, through participating in Drolma's western medical education, to build up the capacity of the clinic to serve the local community with quality medical care based in both western and Tibetan medical clinical practice.

In 2005, DROKPA initiated a grant to support English language and teacher training programs at the Xikang Welfare School in Kangding County, Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province. This school promises to educate a new generation of Tibetans capable of participating in local and regional development efforts. Basic English language proficiency is key to preparing this next generation of educators, community developers and social entrepreneurs.