Tibetan students slam education reports

Reports had said 96.5 pc kids were going to school

Chennai, August 5:

Talking about snow-capped Tibet can bring tears in the eyes of the young men and women who left their motherland. Some 160 Tibetan refugee students in colleges of Chennai, however, have a question for the Indian media: why does it say that China is educating Tibetans?

They were taking objection to recent articles in a section of the press here commending the Chinese record in providing free and compulsory education to children of school-going age.

Teachers of Madras University, who joined the meeting organised by the Tibetan Students’ Association of Madras, had no answer for the question.

“Every year, nearly 2,000 Tibetan children come to India walking across the Himalayas. Why do they take such risks, if education is all that good in Tibet,” Lhakpa Tsering, the association’s cultural secretary, told this correspondent.

“Tibetan students who return to see their parents in Tibet carry the message of modern education in India. It is invaluable,” added Nyima Gyaltsin, president of the association. He left his country at the age of 10. There are many like him, young people born in Tibet, but refugees in Indian states, where they are getting higher education now in some of the country’s top colleges.

Sonam Wangdue left Tibet when he was just 13. He walked into Nepal one dark night, leaving behind six brothers and his doting mother, who braved separation to get at least one of her sons into India for studies. The 24-year-old is now in an MA (communications) class in the Madras Christian College. “If I can, I will go back to Tibet”, he said, a distant look in his eyes. Could he get a communications expert’s job in Tibet? “Probably not, I will become a labourer if I go back,” he smiled.

Pema Yangchen, studying for a Master’s degree in human rights at the Ethiraj College, is firm that “I want to go back to Tibet... and do something for them,” she said.

Media reports, based on officially hosted trips to China, claimed that 96.5 per cent of children in Tibet were going to school.

R Manivannan, associate professor at Madras University, however, noted: “UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy has said that only 31 per cent of children in Tibet have access to compulsory, nine-year education.”

He added that the UN Human Development Report on China had listed “literacy in Tibet as the lowest in all China.”

All-India Catholic University Federation director Henry Jerome said: “All independence struggles are misunderstood, so was Gandhi’s struggle, and so is the one for a free Tibet.”

A statement from the refugee students said: “Almost all centuries-old Tibetan learning hubs have been destroyed.”

Alleging that China was “consistently introducing karaoke bars, discotheques and brothels” in the Tibetan plateau “known for its spirituality”, the students said this was done to entertain the huge numbers of Han workers settled in Tibet now and “distract the unemployed Tibetan youth”. A student doing an MA in English literature at the Stella Maris College, loves to write poetry. She still remembered the hungry days she spent hiding, walking in the night, and finally getting to India.