The state school system does not teach the languages of the Ladakhis and Zanskaris. In the past few years various schools were founded in the Zanskar Valley from private initiatives oriented towards the “Tibetan Buddhist School” project in Dharamsala. This school system integrates the Buddhist philosophy and cultural heritage of the Zanskaris in its curriculum in addition to the usual subjects.
But these schools as well are closed for more than four months each year. Owing to the cold, most teachers leave the valley during their Winter vacations or migrate completely. This is the reason why only few pupils will receive high school admission after completing middle school (up to class 8). With the opening of our winter school we want to counteract this situation.
First winter school lessons held in a private school
The first winter school lessons were held in 2005 at the former private “Kanishka Public School”. This school was closed in 2006. The corridor windows in the loggia open towards the sunny side were repaired. Owing to this measure, in Winter 2005/2006 more than 60 pupils could be educated there. If there was not enough sunshine to warm up the room, heating was provided in the traditional way with cow dung. The parents of the pupils collected so much of this fuel that one of the classrooms was almost filled up completely with dung.
Winter school lessons in the zero-energy house
Inside the zero-energy house built in 2007 one of the rooms was specifically constructed to be used as a classroom in Winter. The southern part of the room is completely glazed in order to be able to optimally make use of the sun energy.
In Winter all lessons are held at the same time by several teachers in this room. In comparison to our standards this is quite difficult to imagine, but considering the local situation this winter school is a unique offer also accepted in the past years by pupils from neighbouring schools. Seven students of architecture from Aachen travelled in Summer 2007 together with us to Sani and have supported building the zero-energy house. After a construction time amounting to only five months, in October 2007 the building was handed over to the inhabitants of Sani. Thus the building could already be used as a winter school during Winter 2007/2008. This is the only winter school in the whole of Zanskar.
Excerpt from an email sent by a teacher on 24 December 2007:We have started the tuition today. There are more than 70 children and seven teachers. I am sure that the tuition will be going much better than the last year. This year we are giving the tuition in our society complex. It is warm and the children are going to feel warm during this long winter.
In its third year of existence already, this winter school is still quite popular as is demonstrated by the following email dated 9 March 2010:Hello Rainer,
It me Phuntsok, writing this mail with great hope of your good health. I tried to send the photos of winter tuition earlier but failed to do so. Tuition was finished and all the people were very thankful for the tuition and they requesting the society to keep the tuition continues next year also. Tuition was successful and all the teacher had done it with great enthusiasm and student are enjoying coming to tuition. They learning many thing from the tuition. At the closing ceremony we organised a cultural show. It was perfect because many students had participated in it.
Today I am sending few photos of the winter tuition. I hope you will like it. Though I want to send much more photos but our camera battery charger was miss place and I took the photos through a mobile camera.
All the members of the society are praying lots regards to you and members of your society there. Everything is working smooth as you wish to. That’s all for now. I will write you more in my next letter.