Educational Newsletter No. 17 December 2010

Feeder Primary Schools Established

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In Spiti's outlying villages, including the better connected ones, never mind the really remote settlements, a reasonable standard of even primary level education has always been lacking. Over the past decade and a half the Rinchen Zangpo Society's Munsel-ling School in Rangrik has helped quite a few children from these villages get their education off to a good start by taking them in as boarders. It is not satisfactory for children as young as five years old to live in a hostel far away from their families in order to attend school, except that there was no alternative — until this year. Now our society has opened feeder pre primary schools in four focal Spiti villages, Losar, Kibber, Key and Sangnam. Another pre primary class has opened in Kaza, the Spiti headquarters. A total of 73 children are attending these day schools with two teachers teaching in each. There are 150 children already studying at our previously established branch day school in Kaza. All being well the new schools will become primary schools in future, children will learn their ABC while living at home and Munsel-ling School will be relieved of
the responsibility of 24-hour care of so many very young children and be able to concentrate more on educational matters. Also these schools create employment opportunities where teachers can work closer to their home instead of having to move away to find work.

The number of children enrolled in our society's education programme has continued to increase steadily year by year. There are now 821 students altogether! There are 507 at Munsel-ling School and 314 elsewhere, including those who are being supported on their way through college. In this way with the kind help of many people we are methodically expanding the scope of our activities to meet the needs and aspirations of our youth. Four new schools, a great step forward.

JSS Institute of People's Education

The Jan Shikshan Sansthans are Institutes of People's Education that focus on those who have been bypassed by mainstream education. They are the creation of the central Indian government's Ministry of Human Resource Development and all staff and infrastructure are fully funded by them. They offer free-to-the-clientele literacy and vocational training without insisting on age limits and prior qualifications. They reach out either to those in the urban backstreets or rural backwaters to offer skill enhancement, outlook formation training, vocational training, and inputs for those below the poverty line. The Rinchen Zangpo Society for Spiti Development can take pride in being the only organization in the whole state of Himachal Pradesh (population six million) so far selected to set up and manage an Institute of People's Education project. Another very creditable first for the RZ Society and tackling the deep deficiencies in adult education is very much a part of the society's objective of lifting Spiti out of its backwardness. Authorization was granted last year and this year in October the director general of the scheme, Jagmohan Singh Raju visited Spiti for the formal inauguration. He offered us every encouragement and support. Training in tailoring has been going on, concentrating on traditional Spiti costumes. Traditional Spiti woollen crafts like shawl, blanket and carpet making are very suitable for future promotion. We plan to select a group of women for full professional training in shawl making to raise the standard of Spiti manufacture to a high level. We have set up an office in Kaza. The project is in its beginning stage and advertising to fill the post of director will begin shortly.

Senior Secondary School Affiliation

Our flagship school, Munsel-ling, will in the future also operate as a senior secondary school. Last year we crossed one major hurdle by meeting the Himachal Pradesh Education Board's standards and successfully negotiating affiliation with them as a senior secondary school. Up until now Munsel-ling has only taken pupils up to age 16. Planning is now going on for the school to be able to educate children through the last two years of secondary school as well, in India known as 10+1 and 10+2. Educating at the senior secondary level as well will require more classrooms, more teachers qualified to higher standards and, in the sciences, extensive laboratory facilities. Approval by the Himachal Pradesh Education Board as a senior secondary school also requires that our other facilities such as libraries and sports facilities have to be of a high standard. With more preparation we will be ready for the challenge, tackling the difficulties posed by Spiti's harsh environment, remoteness and of course the funding question.

Staff News

This year we have sent ten young women to Bangalore (south India) for basic teacher training. Some of the girls have been temporary teachers in our schools. We are very grateful to the Tibetan Children's Village (TCV) organization and especially the president, Mr Tsewang Yeshi, for this opportunity. Some of these women will be able to teach in our new feeder village schools once they have completed this initial training, in the Montessori method. The women are staying at the TCV hostel in Bangalore for the duration of the course, September 2010 to March 2011. Amongst other new staff we welcomed three new teachers at Munsel-ling school this year. Tenzin Yeshi and Jamyang Dolma are two Tibetan women and recent graduates from Sarrah College in Dharamsala. They are teaching Tibetan language. Ringzin Chhodon Angmo B Sc, B Ed, is a Spiti woman from Rangrik who has recently finished her education. She has been appointed as a science teacher.

Seminars and Workshops

The Sparke Workshop 'Supporting Positive Alternatives for Raising Kindness in Education' took place in July at the College for Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarrah, Dharamsala. Efficiently organized by the Department of Education of the Tibetan government-in-exile and IM Soir it was a meeting place for many principals and senior staff of Tibetan schools in India. Our general secretary, Tashi Namgyal, attended. Also the Deer Park Institute in nearby Bir hosted a seminar entitled the 'Zero Waste Himalaya Conference' to discuss ways in which to keep the Himalayas beautiful through proper waste management. Two delegates from our society were at the conference.

Visits and Guests

The greatly respected prime minister of the Tibetan exile government, Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche, again paid us the honour of a visit to our Sidbhari hostel, near Dharamsala. In May in our hostel prayer hall at the invitation of the Sherab Sangpo Society (a Himalayan Buddhist organization) Samdhong Rinpoche gave a two-day talk in Hindi on central Buddhist topics relevant to the lives of Himalayan communities. People were present from Manali and Spiti to attend his precious teaching. The talk was broadcast on Indian Television.

Visiting Spiti in 2010 were our old friends of the Medical Check-ups for Children organization. We are very grateful for their care of children in the school and various villages. This year programme director Dr Videsh Kapoor personally led the University of British Columbia Global Health Initiative team. They continued to address the question of making our water supply sufficient and safe for drinking by installing a purification system. Their usual health and hygiene work went on as usual. The three large greenhouses they funded, as well as the fourth funded by Alliance Turquoise of France, are now operational, in spite of earlier damage due to freak heavy rains at the time of the floods in Pakistan. They also invited us to submit a proposal for solar water heating for the children's bathing and clothes washing requirements. Bob Larvis dentist and founder of HIBA organization was coming again to look at students' teeth but was held back at Manali by monsoon road damage and heavy rain and could not get over the mountains. Hope to see you next year Bob.


In Sidbhari the new study building has reached the third storey. Meanwhile the ground floor is already in use as additional classrooms for after hours coaching. The new classrooms became available at just the right time and our teachers this year are working well and enthusiastically. In the competitive science subjects these extra classes are in India a necessary part of the process of preparing for college entrance examinations. We are now more confident than ever before of our students getting the necessary solid basis in their subjects before they proceed to the college selection process.


A huge number of people have helped as usual to make the last year a very successful one for our educational programme. Thanks to all those and a personal mention by name of a few of them:

— Benti Banach is our longest serving western volunteer. This year he found five sponsors for needy children in our scheme, plus someone who donated a new computer. Check out his new book, A Village Called Self-Awareness, Life and Times in Spiti Valley.

— Ann Marie Durand gave generously towards the cost of new toilets at Munsel-ling School.

— Valerie Fanen gave generously towards our education programme.

— Pat Smith and friends and also Pat Emmingham and friends at Upper Chapel, Sheffield did the same.

— Last but not least Scott Anderson raised a great sum cycling through Britain from bottom to top, i.e., from Land's End to John o' Groats, 1,052 miles.

Other Happenings

Togden Rinpoche paid a visit to Munsel-ling while giving the oral transmission of the Kangyur (Buddhist scriptures) at the village of Rangrik. Also thirty children from Munsel-ling school went for their first ever beginners ski training, on courses organized by the local government's sports section.

Please Sponsor a Spiti Child

The work of the Rinchen Zangpo Society is largely dependent on the generosity of charitable organizations and individuals. Your support and contribution can help greatly in providing education to those Spiti children who come from especially poor families. Sponsoring the education of one of these children is a wonderful way of helping them.

The cost of sponsoring a child is:

1. US $30 per month, US $360 per year for school education.

2. US $50 per month or US $600 per year for higher education.

3. US $80 per month or US $960 per year for higher education studying medicine.


Project Proposals 2011- 2012           

— Dining Hall at Munsel-ling School, Rangrik, Spiti: The present dining facility was a makeshift structure built for approximately 400 students, but at present more than 500 students are taking their daily meals in the dining hall. It can no longer accommodate the growing needs of the school and also the roof and upper walls were damaged in this year's freak heavy rains. The school badly needs a proper new dining room. Estimated Budget: INR 29,94,332, US $66,540.     

— Staff Quarter at Sidbhari Hostel, Dharamsala: There is no dedicated staff accommodation at our Sidbhari site. Staff take up rooms meant for children. Proper accommodation will enable us to attract better qualified staff. Estimated Budget: INR 13,50,000, US $30,000.     

— Office cum Reception at Sidbhari Hostel: The current office is very cramped. We often have to meet our visitors in the library which is not only a disturbance for our students but also it hampers our office work. We wish to build a new office building at the entrance to the hostel to prevent such disruption. We laid the foundation of the new building but, due to lack of funds, the work has been postponed for the time being. It is one of our major needs. Estimated Budget: INR 18,50,000, US $41,111.     


The implementation of current projects and future project proposals of the Rinchen Zangpo Society for Spiti Development depends entirely on the availability of sufficient funds. We request members, friends and well wishers of the society to help us help the children of Spiti by sponsoring any of the above projects or in any other way.




Rinchen Zangpo Society for Spiti Development

             HEAD OFFICE:
Spiti Complex, Rakkar Rd, Sidbhari - 176057, Distt Kangra,     HP, India

             MUNSEL-LING SCHOOL:
VPO Rangrik - 172114, Distt. Lahaul-Spiti, HP, India