For school, Tibetan teen crossed Himalayas (Feature)

September 18th, 2009 - 11:31 am ICT by IANS  

By Mayank Aggarwal
Dharamsala, Sep 18 (IANS) Sixteen-year-old Tibetan Jamyang set out on a journey that could threaten his life. His farmer parents let him cross over to India via Nepal for his education despite knowing that he may go without food and they may never set eyes on him again.

The eldest of eight children in a family based in eastern Tibet, Jamyang is one in the latest batch of 40-odd refugees who have come to Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile, hoping to start a new chapter in his life.

Away from his family, there is just one singular reason that has made him come to this Himachal Pradesh town - school.

The young boy couldn’t wait to meet the supreme Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, Friday being the day scheduled for it. He will now join Bir School, one of the many started by the government-in-exile here.

“I want to go to school, that is why my parents sent me away. I have not decided what I want to do or become when I grow up. It is for my family to decide what I will do or where I will go after finishing my school here,” Jamyang told a visiting IANS correspondent.

Because of the circumstances in Tibet - which is under Chinese rule - he was unable to attend school there.

Reminiscing the 40-day-long Himalayan journey to India, he says, it was not simple. “I first went to Lhasa from where I reached the Nepal border crossing the Himalayas. But the security there was very tight and crossing the Tibet-Nepal border was very difficult. I even remained without food for three days,” he recalls.

After a month in Nepal, the refugees, including 12 teenagers like Jamyang, were put on a special bus to New Delhi and finally made their way here.

The Tibetan government-in-exile lays special emphasis on education for the community’s children. While some of its schools are controlled by the Indian government, others are run by independent organizations such as the Tibetan Children Village (TCV).

Currently, there are about 27,000 students in 82 Tibetan schools for the refugee community throughout India, Nepal and Bhutan.

A lot of importance is also laid on preservation of Tibetan culture through education.

“We lay emphasis on preservation of the Tibetan language and culture. We follow the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and teach three languages - Tibetan, Hindi and English,” said Sonam N. Dagpo, secretary, international relations, of the Tibetan-government-in-exile.

“Initially, English was the medium of instruction but now we have started Tibetan language as a medium of instruction. At present, it is till Class 5 only but we are planning to extend it up to Class 10,” he added.

“We don’t want them to forget their own culture,” Dagpo said.

The Tibetan community is celebrating 2009 to say “Thank you India: 50 years in exile”, showing gratitude to India for hosting them and their religious heads for five decades.

“Education is the topmost priority for our children. It’s not about providing them education alone; it’s about giving them hope for their country. If they get educated, they will be able to work for their country,” said TCV’s education director Tenzing Sangpo.

TCV used to get around 800-900 Tibetan children every year, but since last year - when there was a widely reported crackdown by the Chinese authorities in Tibet - they have got only 150 children.

“We are thankful to the Indian government for their support and today our students are very successful. India has become a second home for us and Tibetans have adapted to Indian culture pretty well,” Sangpo added.

Many students have now become doctors, administrators, engineers, post- graduate teachers, journalists, social workers, lawyers and computer programmers.

A total of 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans are believed to be living in Tibet, which the Dalai Lama fled in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese Communist rule.

(Mayank Aggarwal can be contacted at

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