Sun School in a New Gonchi
After long long planning and intensive preparations, Surya Association has handed over the maintenance and partial management of Sun School to Kargyak villagers and local teachers. That is a brief summary of the major change that took place in Sun School in 2013. What exactly happened and what are the actual consequences of such transformation?
Sun School Maintenance and Management
Since its opening in 2008 till November 2013 the school was under continual supervision of Surya volunteers. These were in charge of the maintenance of the building, coordination of private teachers and instruction of English language and occasionally of other subjects. They were simply responsible for smooth running of the school. Since the beginning of the new school year, i.e. 4th of school matters has been passed on the managing committee, consisting of three Kargyak villagers that were elected by the village representatives and agreed on by the management of Surya Association.
The members of the managing committee are:
Lobsang Jinba. Kargyak carpenter. He will also lead the carpentering workshop at school.
Sonam Spalkit. One of the village leaders. Also a new Urdu teacher. Stanzin Tashi. A representative of Kargyak young generation. In summer appointed by ZEO as a new Sun School governmental teacher.
Since the appointment of the managing committee to their functions in September 2013, Petra and Zuzana (that stayed till the end of November 2013 and executed the final stages of the transformation) were meeting the three representatives regularly, explained the new system of management and went through all the individual aspects of the new responsibilities of the villagers and teachers. Lobsang, Spalkit and Tashi have been enormously cooperative. They organized the collection of the yak dung for the school from the villagers, arranged the transportation of winter supplies of gas cylinders for our private teachers, and they have started regular inspections of the school building and instruction. They have been proving constantly that the school is going to be in good hands. After Petra and Zuzana left the school and the valley, the association keeps in touch regularly with the committee as well as with the private teachers: via one or two dial-up sessions per week we get to know whether everything is all right at the school, whether the instruction is running smoothly, teachers and students attend the school regularly and the building of the school does not suffer any major troubles.
November 2013, the responsibility for the school building and majority While all the activities related to school are monitored throughout the year at a distance, it is essential to check the place and running of the school personally. I summer 2014 Petra and Zuzana will come to the village again to check everything after the first independent school year. As the school has been handed over to the village for a trial period of one year, the summer visit and thorough inspection will be decisive for further organisation of the school.
Whereas the local management has been handed over, the building itself remains in the possession of Surya Association. The association continues to guarantee school ́s full
operation by financing the private teachers. Surya will also support children that will graduate from Sun School and sponsor their further studies out of Kargyak village. Tsomo, our first graduate, finished her Sun School studies in October, and Surya Association sponsors her studies in Manali.
The year-round school administration is in the hands of the villagers; however, we want
volunteers to be further involved in the project: we are well aware of the fact that long-
term presence of foreigners and the necessity to communicate with them creates stimulating linguistic environment and generally develops children ́s linguistic skills. Compared to the previous years, the volunteers ́ stays will be shorter: volunteers will be staying only during summer months (June-September) and they will provide intensive courses of spoken English and computer and first-aid workshops.
Teachers and Instruction
Despite the fact that the volunteering teachers left, the number of Sun School teachers is the highest in the school ́s history. In summer we gained two new governmental teachers: Sir Chosgyal, Sun School ́s headmaster, was joined by Stanzin Norchok (from Yaal village, approx. 5-hour walk from Kargyak) and Stanzin Tashi from Kargyak. Both young men had just finished their studies at the university in Jammu and were appointed to the position of governmental teachers at our school in July. We appreciate their enthusiasm, and we are happy that our school – apart from providing education for local children – offers job opportunities for young educated people from the region, and thus motivates them to come back to the place of their origin, further develop Zanskar valley and maintain the local culture.
The core of Sun School functioning are our private teachers: due to their year-round presence at school the instruction can take place also in winter when the governmental teachers have their winter holiday. Tashi and Tsomo, a young couple from the village of Rarik (situated on the Himachal-Pradesh side of Shingo-la), have started their third year as private teachers in Sun School. They were joined by geshe lama Stanzin Dawa, a respected and learned Buddhist monk from Kuru (4-hour walk from Kargyak) who provides the instruction of Bhodic, Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy.
In addition to new Buddhist subjects, educational activities for children spread outside the official school hours. After the great success of the carpentering workshop that we organized in winter, we decided to launch this workshop regularly. Every month children will learn to process wood and manufacture basic wooden objects under Lobsang ́s supervision. Tsomo, our knitting guru, will lead the knitting workshop that will take place every Friday after school. The girls will learn to knit traditional Zanskari socks, caps and gloves.
The decision to hand the school over to Kargyak villagers was far from being easy, and it
was preceded by many questions concerning the competencies and abilities of the villagers. After thorough examination of the villagers ́ abilities and careful consideration of all pros and cons of the potential transformation, we came to the conclusion that it was worth providing the villagers with the space for their own initiative, independence and responsibility. We are convinced that our Kargyak-pa are fully capable of taking the advantage of the provided opportunity and will do their best for the school and for their children.
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