Education  India Project #29797

Protect Himalayan Culture through Education

by Karuna Trust
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Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education
Protect Himalayan Culture through Education

In late December 2020 Karuna was informed that the Trustees of ITBCI School, which is now led by the new Dhardo Rimpoche, had made the decision to close the school in December 2021. 

We arranged a number of meetings with the school leadership to understand the decision. Our Programme Managers also met with Dhardo Rinpoche on Zoom in January. We made it clear that Karuna would continue funding for as long as it was needed, and that we would also be prepared to provide more funding if that would enable the school to continue. Karuna’s funding commitment, which we continued throughout the pandemic, represents around 60% of the school’s overall budget, and Rimpoche had previously been leading in-country fundraising for the project, providing the remainder. He now feels unable to continue his fundraising for the school as he intends to focus on a further six years of Buddhist studies. This will enable him to reach the highest level of Geshe training. 

Additionally, Dhardo Rimpoche feels  that the school has fulfilled its original vision, and there is no longer a need for a school of this sort. Rimpoche explained that there are no Tibetan children attending the school and they tend now to go to other state or private institutions in Kalimpong. 

The Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Cultural Institute (ITBCI) School was established by the previous Dhardo Rinpoche 67 years ago. During this time many thousands of children have received an education and had the chance to learn about Tibetan culture and Buddhist practice in the tradition of Dhardo Rinpoche.  Karuna ran one of its first fundraising appeals at the start of the 1980s to raise money for the school and has been supporting the project for nearly forty years.

The original mission of the ITBCI was preserving Tibetan culture and it's unique approach to the teachings of Buddhism, and it may be possible in future for the Trust to repurpose the school facilities as a Centre for Tibetan arts, culture and Dharma. We ended the discussion by saying that Karuna is very open to continuing our support for ITBCI in the future should a new vision for the project emerge. We will also be giving the support needed to work towards a positive closing of the school later this year. This includes, funding towards teachers’ redundancies, events to celebrate the school's achievements, and legal advice on how to manage the school closure so as to protect the assets. 

Karuna has really valued it's long partnership with ITBCI and is proud of all the work it has done. We hope that the new Dhardo Rimpoche will return in 6 years and fully make use of the school buildings to promote and preserve the cultural traditions of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. In the meantime we are extremely grateful to the staff and leadership of the school, especially Jampel Khalden and his family, for their years of love, dedication and hard work. We are also extremely grateful for everyone who has supported the project over the years.

 

Cieran Maguire- Karuna CEO

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Due to the effects of the coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns, our school in the foothills of the Himalayas is yet to reopen. However, we have continued to be in regular contact with teachers and get feedback from students on how they continue to be supported in their learning during this challenging time. 

All students above lower kindergarten age are getting support to study online with their teachers via WhatsApp. Incredibly, teachers have managed to conduct mock exams for students through this online medium and their learning has continued. 

Cases of the coronavirus has reduced in the Kalimpong area but there is no sign of schools being able to reopen at present.  

Students write movingly about the support they've received from their teachers and also the sadness they feel at missing their friends and not having that in-person contact with their peers and mentors.

At a school where the motto is: Cherish the Doctrine, Live united, Radiate Love, the staff and pupils continue to keep the message alive despite these remote and uncertain conditions. 

Your support ensures teachers continue to be supported, the school is maintained and children keep on track with their education. 

Thank you. 

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Chodak (name changed), from ITBCI
Chodak (name changed), from ITBCI

In the early days of the lockdown, the school closed quickly and the older students such as Chodak, pictured, were given online tutoring (mainly over smartphones / WhatsApp as none of the students have computers at home). Some relief food and hygiene parcels were also delivered. The area was relatively untouched by actual COVID cases at that time, so the school was optimistic that they would re-open by August.

Now, unfortunately, Darjeeling ,Kalimpong ,Siliguri  and Sikkim are seeing more COVID cases and as such, the government has announced an extension of lockdown and schools have not yet reopened.

Online classes have now been extended to younger students, all students bar lower kindergarten and nursery have online classes and the school also conducted online midterm exams in August (results of this should be out soon). Teachers helped students to prepare for these mock exams and pupils have been given former test papers to help them with this. Teachers also meet regularly online to discuss students’ progress and make sure they are staying up to date with their studies.

Schools in the area were due to reopen by the end of September and there is no news on this yet, but with cases increasing dramatically this may not happen and the school is also concerned that parents would not want to send their children to school.

Chodak has been a student at ITBCI since she was 3 years old when she joined the kindergarten facility there.

She says

I like the teachers and art at the school. I like my life science teacher because she taught me in a way that I can easily do the lessons and remember things. I would say that the teachers are very good at their jobs and they treat us properly and with kindness. I like how there are paintings around the school and in the schoolyard. I am not so good at art but I like that they are there and they inspire me. I don’t think other schools have this kind of beauty like this. Mr. Dogah made the art, he was a lovely teacher of dance and art.

At the school all the students treat each other like brother and sister, we treat

each other like family and we look after each other. I have two very good friends

at the school, they are very friendly to me and we have been friends for a long

time, since we were very small in nursery.

I’m going to stay in the school until I graduate and then I will go to higher

education because I want to be a nurse. I’ve known since I was 8 years old that I

wanted to be a nurse because I love life science and also I want to help people.

Your ongoing support is helping teachers stay connected to students such as Chodak; to maintain a sense of safety, community and essential learning. With your support, children like Chodak are supported during this unsettling period and will be prepared to return to school when it is safe to do so. 

 Thank you.

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Torma has been a student at ITBCI since she was 3 years old, when she joined the kindergarten facility there. When we met at the school in February, she spent time telling me about all the things she appreciates about ITBCI.

“I like the teachers and the art. I like how there are paintings around the school and in the schoolyard, these inspire me. I don’t think other schools have this kind of beauty. Our teacher Mr. Dogah made all of these, he was a lovely teacher of dance and art.

At the school all the students treat each other like brother and sister, we treat each other like family and we look after each other. I have two very good friends at the school, they are very friendly to me and we have been friends for a long time, since we were very small in nursery.

I’m going to stay in the school until I graduate and then I will go to higher education because I want to be a nurse. I’ve known since I was 8 years old that I wanted to be a nurse because I love life science and also I want to help people.”

Torma's appreciation of the school is typical of the students of ITBCI. During the period of lockdown students who are able to access the internet at home have been accessing lessons on line. Torma and all of the other students are very much looking forward to coming back to school in July.

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Boys learn and form friendship
Boys learn and form friendship

During a field visit, we had the privilege of speaking with Mr Dogah. He first came to the The Indo-Tinetan school in 1964 and describes the lineage he became a part of and how that magic lives on in the present day.

 

"I was a student here first. I came from Tibet. Because of the change in climate I had ill health and couldn’t continue my studies. Dhardo Rinpoche, the founder of the school, sent a few students to learn Tibetan music and dance by a known Tibetan artist here. So then I started teaching dance here.  

Dhardo Rimpoche was very extraordinary. He cared for others. He had love for Tibetan language and tradition. He helped so many refugee children and so he decided to serve his whole life to this school. I was inspired because Rimpoche used to say whatever you know you can teach and you are serving  the Tibetans.  

Tibet has a variety of dances. Many folk dances and classical dances. There are so many different dances which I only realized after meeting Westerners so I formed a dance company.  Before, many Tibetans did not pay attention to their culture and Dhardo Rinpoche felt it was important because of his experience in this school and because so many students have gone on to teach these arts.  For example, there is one boy who was an orphan and later on he joined a famous performing arts school in Dharmasala. And now he is in the USA. And in the USA he teaches the Tibetan children.  

During the early days I used to teach in a mud hut with a tin roof. With very crowded classes and insufficient conditions. When Karuna gave funding the school was rebuilt and now it is much easier with sufficient classes. And on top of that the standard of the school is raised. Now there is respect for the school. The school improved year by year because of Karuna’s help.” 

Mr Dogah has handed over the teaching of traditional dance to his son, though the snow leopard handmade and used in performances, continues to be the one he made decades ago. 

Celebrating Tibetan heritage
Celebrating Tibetan heritage
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Organization Information

Karuna Trust

Location: London, England - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @karuna_trust_uk
Project Leader:
Akashamitra Turnbull
London, England United Kingdom

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