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Project Tibet: Tibetan Children's Villages

Studies remain poor

By Jessica Koch

Sonam Dorjee
Sonam Dorjee graduated from the TCVs and would
like to study at an Indian University.

Student tries to further education despite hardships

A young graduate of the Tibetan Children's Village in Dharamsala consented to give an interview, with the condition that his real name not be given. Sonam Dorjee, as he wished to be called, is 23 years old, equivalent to 25 years old in western terms. Dorjee came to India from Tibet in 1997. He experienced first-hand the dangerous flight out of Tibet and into exile.

Dorjee made the journey with friends, on foot, and without any papers or an Indian passport.

In 1997, the young man had to avoid the Indian police after he was sent from a reception point at Kathmandu to Dharamsala.

"Some Tibetans come to visit the Dalai Lama, some to become monks and some to go to school," Dorjee said.

The travelers are divided into these groups upon arrival at the reception center in Kathmandu and are then given instruction according to purpose and condition of travel into India. The students are divided into two groups -- those older than 17 and those younger. They are sent to one of two types of school.

The younger students are sent to a Tibetan Children's Village; specifically, they are sent to one of seven branches of the TCV system.

Each of the seven branches of the TCV has a particular educational emphasis. Dorjee attended the Suja TCV School and learned English there. The Suja School has a mathematics and science focus.

Dorjee said though the facilities in the Suja School are poor, the classes are considered the best in Indian standards of education.

Dorjee said there was an average class size of 20 to 30 students, most of whom were 16 to 18 years old.

Dorjee finished his schooling at the TCV in five years, which means he covered 10 grades in five years. He left the Suja School for another school, in order to attend vocational-style training. Dorjee chose an architectural program located in Derhadun, India, and spent two and a half years in the eager study of the subject. Mechanics, carpentry and similar instruction are offered at the Derhadun vocational school. When Dorjee first joined the school at Derhadun, he was informed only a few parts of architecture would be taught, and his education would be incomplete.

Dorjee has graduated from the school at Derhadun, and is building a future for himself. "My first aim is to become an architect," he said. "But it is very difficult to find a proper job because of this insufficient education."

Two and a half years of education is not enough to land a job in Indian society.

Students try to locate work in India in their field, as it has become increasingly difficult to return to Tibet after completing an education in India. Often, graduates are arrested and harassed by the Chinese government.

Dorjee said he aspires to further his studies at an Indian university and perhaps fill in the holes in his rather lacking architectural edification.

However, Dorjee said he suffers from the plight common to the Tibetan student -- the financial support for higher education of Tibetans in Indian universities is virtually non-existent.

He said he has no choice but to support himself with work other than architecture, and he hopes one day he will have the opportunity to work in the field he chose and trained for to the best of his ability.

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