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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