Ongoing Education The ‘Senior’ Programme
Front: Tenzin D357, Pran Maya B385, Dorje Thinley B012, Dolma B402, Phurbu B350, Yangzom B036a, Kunchok Lhundup B306
Back: Lhakpa Tsewang B299, Prakash D408, Mingmar B08, Damzig B252, Sonam B019a, Chhimi B356, Lakpa Diki B332a, Tashi Sangpo B325
D357 going on scholarship to the Inter Community School Zurich
B385 1st year, General Medicine
B012 1st year, General Medicine
B402 1st year, General Medicine
B350 1st year, General Medicine
B036a on a Gap Year; she is stateless. We are working on travel documents for her
B299 newbie Senior, Lhakpa is our AV Wallah in charge of all sound and AV equipment and film Library
D408 newbie Day Senior
B08 is our school photographer. Wants to go on with photography, graphic arts and computer studies. We're looking for a school. He teaches at Kunda Monastery. They put him on salary.
B019a newbie Senior, improving his Tibetan in School Stores with our monk Tashi Gyatso
B356 newbie Senior
B332a going on scholarship to the Red Cross Nordic United World College in Norway in July
B356 newbie Senior
SMD is too crowded to offer Classes 11 & 12. High schools that offer "plus two" are all urban and for-profit. Mountain kids can’t afford tuition, let alone the cost of living. A School Leaving Certificate (SLC) is virtually useless. About half the country is unemployed; among school-leavers, unemployment must be about 80% or higher.
For anyone who wants to finish high school or go on to other training, there is no other option but to stay on at SMD, even though we are over-crowded.
Dolma Sherpa B402
Khunchok Lhundup B306
Lhakpa Tsewang B299
How do we choose which kids to keep?
From the time our students are in Class 6, we are watching how each grows. We’re looking for some specific markers:
* Does the student carry Rinpoche’s wishes into her/his daily life? (Rinpoche’s aims are to preserve the language, culture and Buddhist way of life of Himalayan people, so we look to see who is committed to these aims...and is active in all three directions. Among the three the last is most important...we look to see who generates bodhicitta as the Buddha taught.
* We look for leadership skills
* We look to see who has given their best in service to the school
* We look to see that the student tries hard in her/his studies
* When the kids finish Class 10, all sections of the school (Senior Administration, teachers, older Seniors, scholarships kids (if any are home) and Support Staff are canvassed for anonymous nominations. Reasons for the nominations must be provided.)
After selections are made, there are two tracks: those who are finishing 11 & 12 and going on inside Nepal, and those who we keep on a Gap Year...this is a gamble...they have a chance at winning scholarships to finish 11 & 12 overseas at independent schools who assume all the costs. This is an excellent solution for the students and for SMD, because it frees up beds and if the scholarship winners do well (and they do) they can qualify for full scholarships at university.
We have 38 students overseas thanks to scholarships awarded by some of the finest schools in the world which offer all expenses, including a return flight every year.
Tenzin Lama D357
Tenzin Yangzom B036a
Tashi Sangpo B325
Life as a Senior
A few Seniors who have family near the school can be Day Seniors, but most live in a flat we've rented outside the school compound. In the flat, they Seniors are fairly autonomous and according to Rinpoche's wish, they learn life skills: how to shop, budget, cook, clean, pay the electricity bill (they give 10% of the small stipend SMD pays them) and negotiate with each other about how the flat should be run.
While they do all this, they work at SMD. We move them about a bit: jobs include working in the Big Office (word processing, preparing exams, answering the phone, running errands for the Academic side of the school), working in the Director's Office, (the hardest job there is...a lot of multitasking, handling PR, sponsors, publishing, etc.) working in the school’s Stores, (inventories in 3 languages...this is where all the supplies for children and live in staff...clothing, soap, etc. are issued) running the Science Lab, (inventories, supplies, scheduling) keeping inventories for the Stationery Stores, AV equipment, films and CDs, supervising in the Computer Lab, working as a classroom aide, etc. All the Seniors also work in the Hostel, supervising at homework time (‘self study’) and giving tuition.
All receive Reading Angel training (flash training in early skills acquistion, psychology, classroom management and phonics)...older Seniors are the trainers...they offer the training programme for adults from other Kathmandu
schools and for our SMD staff. Many seniors also volunteer as teachers for Pawo Gompa, a nearby monastery which doesn’t have enough money to hire teachers for their small monks. Our Seniors have been running the entire teaching programme for + 4 years. Kunda monastery, another one nearby, has hired two of our Seniors as regular teachers.
At Rinpoche’s wish, Seniors learn life skills. We help them open bank accounts. They take turns cooking dinner 6 days a week and they run the flat according to dinnertime group decisions, very good training in communication, critical thinking and problem-solving.
Out of necessity, our Seniors do many of the tasks that teachers in other countries normally do. (Rinpoche's advice years ago was, "Train our own to be teachers.") At a conservative estimate, Seniors are doing the work of 28 day teachers; SMD cannot run without them.
While they are "giving service", the Seniors are also expected to go to daily prayers and to all Dharma teachings as well as Friday Night Group, (meditation and exploration of ethics and conduct) and a Saturday meeting where they learn critical thinking and solve school problems.
Lakpa Diji B332a
Ongoing Education in Nepal
This year, some Seniors have joined our staff and are working half time and going to school or university half time. We also have ten older graduates (not Seniors) who are working as teachers at SMD and finishing their university degrees. Half live in the school and work as Hostel (dorm) teachers. The others are living independently.
SMD students have won more than three dozen scholarships overseas. Most are finishing Grades 11 & 12 at independent schools in Australia, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, Portugal and the US. These kids are studying in the most rigorous academic streams you can imagine: many are doing the International Baccalaureate www.ibo.org The IB is the most academically challenging high school education possible.Universities waive First Year requirements if a student has excelled in the IB programme.We think the IB programme is particularly fitting for SMD kids. From the IBO mission statement:
The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.
Urgen Dorje B413 (in Canada) with Phurbu B350
Chimi Thinley B356 , Lakpa Diji B332a
A Word About the Future
Nepal cannot provide governance, security, electricity or sanitation even in the capital, where last year we had 16 - 18 hours of power cuts every day through the 9 month dry season. There is no rule of law. Half the children in this country are stunted from chronic hunger.
As you may suppose, the biggest export is Nepalis. Young people are abandoning their homeland...anywhere, even the Gulf is better than Nepal (and every day, three young Nepalis are shipped home in coffins). Of the privileged ones (those getting a foreign education) precious few return. Nepal is losing its young, the brightest and best.
We only help students who write a letter to our founder, Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche, promising to return to help their own people. We do not ask our scholarship students to stay in Nepal forever. We only ask for a year or two of service, then they are free to do what they want.
In order to go on to higher education, kids have to finish Grades 11 & 12, but in Nepal such schools are for-profit, expensive and urban. Annual tuition tends to be about $800/year, and as high as $1500. If you factor in the cost of living, it costs us well over $1000 apiece to keep each Senior. All this in the poorest country in Asia, where the average annual income is under $240.
As I said earlier, we move Seniors around in the school a lot. While they are working, everyone they work for or with observes their performance. I work closely with Seniors and am also registering how each one is doing. IF they do really well, we consider them for scholarships overseas...and IF we get a scholarship offer we nominate one of the Seniors. IF the school accepts the the nominee, we start working on documents (citizenship card/passport/ translations and notarizations of parental permission, etc). This is very time-consuming for these reasons:
1. The kids have to go back to the mountains to district headquarters to get papers
2. Translations must be done by government agencies here in Kathmandu
3. All translations need to be notarized
4. Corruption every step of the way (slows things down and ups costs)
After all this, we start the process of applying for a visa where the scholarship is offered. This takes at least 4 months and often longer. I tell the kids you can never believe you're going overseas until you're past the corrupt scoundrels at the Immigration counter in Kathmandu airport and actually on the plane.
The whole process takes 6 months, on average and costs us $600 to $800 in pre-travel costs (documents, translations, notarizing, travel gear, clothing, etc.) Visas and medical costs vary, but most are several hundred dollars. Pre-travel costs for Australia were almost two thousand dollars, money I have to raise. We do not tell any of the kids they're in our sights for scholarships until we are certain of the student and ready to start the process.
In offering scholarships for SMDers to finish high school, these independent schools have been extremely generous.
Appleby College, Oakville, Canada
Atlanta International School Atlanta, USA
The Bavarian International School
Bishop Strachan School, Toronto, Canada
Hotchkiss School, Connecticut, USA
Inter Community School, Zurich
Instut le Rosey, Rolle Switzerland
Ivanhoe Grammar School, Melbourne Australia
Mulgrave School, Vancouver, Canada
Red Cross Nordic United World College, Flekke, Norway
St. Julian’s School, Lisbon, Portugal
United World College of the Adriatic, Duino Italy
West Island College Calgary, Canada
Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School in Red Deer, Canada has taken two students into their IB programme. LTHS is a public school. In this case, financial support has come from two families in Red Deer.
In addition to paying tuition, room and board, these schools cover school supplies, text books & laptops, medical & dental, clothing, and pocket money. Most of these schools also pay an annual return ticket. Very often, the host families contribute funding too.
The generosity hasn’t been limited to scholarships...support flows back to SMD. Appleby College, West Island College, ICSZ and the Bavarian International School offered accommodation and help with travel costs when I visited. The Inter Community School Zurich and the Bavarian International School sent teachers to give in-service training to our teachers. The ICS community sponsors many children and they and the Bavarian International School both fundraise for SMD.
Grades 11 & 12 in Nepal
It costs $600-$800/year for tuition at the ‘plus two’ schools in the valley which means we can keep a student with us, and send her/him to another school for roughly $1000/year.
University in Nepal
On average, tuition costs about $400/year to finish an undergraduate degree (three years’ study in Nepal). By the time our students get to university, we hire them as teachers and they pay their own way through university.
Tuition for this 3 year programme costs $3500 - $4000 and doesn’t include texts, transportation, uniforms, exams and equipment, but students can start as soon as they finish Class 10 (SLC) and the curriculum includes Grades 11 & 12. Students must live with us while they are in the programme. When they finish, they can run health posts or lead a casualty ward team of ten. Health Assistants are, in essence, barefoot doctors who can do almost anything except major surgery.
This training is particularly useful at altitude, where there is no healthcare at all. It is also possible to work in private hospitals with this certification and it also allows for further study at Bachelor's level in Public Health or in Health Education, or two more years of training to become a physician.