The Dagpo Thosam Ling school

Dagpo Thosam Ling School was opened in March 2004, a year before Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery was offically inaugurated, so great was the need for such a school. It is affiliated with this monastic university and at the present time is still located on its grounds.

It began with forty students from different Himalayan regions and quickly grew to more than a hundred -the maximum number the school can accomodate. The monastery's young monks of school age attend the school along with the other children. There are  classes from kindergarten up to grade 5 and the pupils range from age 5 to 13 years.

The subjects thaugt are mathematics, social studies, English, Hindi and Tibetan. Teaching Tibetan language (locally called Bhoti) traditional songs and dances plays an important role in the preservation of Himalayan civilization for it serves as a vehicle to pass on the Buddhist principles that underlies this culture to which the students' families belong.

Almost all the students are boarders and some of them remain at the school the year round as their families cannot afford to fetch them home. In this case however their families usually find a way to visit them at least once a year Others students return home for the long winter break during the coldest months of the year, February and March.

In winter, classes are often held outside in the courtyard with everyone bundled up as it is warmer in the sunshine than in the unheated classrooms. In the summer you find the students on the verandas where it is cooler and airier than inside.

Most parents are too poor to  pay their children’s full school fees. Dagpo Thosam Ling is the only school for miles around where their children can receive this kind of education.

There is now a project to expand the school at a different location so as to provide schooling that will prepare the students for higher education with Tibetan language as the teaching medium. For more information please see ‘projects’ and the www.entraide-franco-tibetaine.com).

Latest developments

The two most important reasons for establishing Dagpo Thosam Ling school were:

  • To provide the inhabitants of this region with education and an additional program where the children learn both the Tibetan language and culture. Thereby preserving Tibetan cultural values and, if required, further studies in Buddhism.
  • The location, near the monastery, was chosen to inspire the children and, at the same time, give the younger monks the same basic secular education. Bringing together the children and monks in a positive manner so they can learn from one another.

Now, nine years later, discussions are being held as to the future of the school. In September 2013 Dagpo Shedrub Ling Monastic Cultural Society (DSMCS), the foundation to which the school belongs, held a meeting. The following took place:

Firstly, it was determined that the school has been a resounding success. Student enrolment has risen continually, currently there are 140 students, and the academic achievements of these students have rated above average.
The school was founded mainly for the local community, unfortunately, it turns out that very few students from the direct neighbouring villages have actually enrolled. Although it was never the intention, the local community fears that there could be pressure to convert.

Most of the students come from the area of Meun (located further away), despite the fact that in the last three years monks from Drepung Gomang have founded schools in that area. The parents of these students, still attending Dagpo Thosam Ling School, are mainly interested in benefiting financially from the free education, housing and food provided by the school.

Currently the Indian government also provides free education, which includes books and uniforms, for the eight basic classes, as does Dagpo Thosam Ling.

Also the DSMCS has concluded that in the last 9 years very few students have chosen to continue their education in the Tibetan language or learning Buddhism. Therefore, the principle reasons for the foundation of the school are no longer applicable and it appears unnecessary to keep the school in its present form.
The questions arising are: How shall we continue? What should we do with the current classrooms and the land bought to build a new, bigger school?

The current classrooms can be vacated for the monastery, as it can definitely use the extra space. The number of monks is constantly increasing, at present there are approximately 40 young monks requiring a basic education.

Concerning the land that has been bought, there are two solutions being discussed:

  • Building a retreat house with small bedrooms and a common area to be used for anyone seeking a place to meditate, both monks, nuns and lay practitioners will be welcome. There is an orchard producing high quality apples, which can stay in production.
  • Founding a centre for research and study of the Buddhist culture at a higher level.

The advantages, disadvantages and feasibility for both options are being looked at.

The official transfer of the land is requiring a lot of time and effort and is still not finished. This is due to the bureaucracy of the government on every level; municipal, provincial, departmental and state.