The number of Christian missionary schools in the former Kingdom of Sikkim (Sikkim is now an Indian territory) has sharply increased, and because Buddhist schools are not as readily available or as well-funded as other religious schools, the youth of Sikkim are easily converted. Khyentse Foundation recently approved a grant to support a children’s primary and secondary school with an adjacent gurulakhang (shedra) in northern Sikkim that is expanding its curriculum to include basic Buddhist principals and history in addition to the sciences and mathematics. English, Hindi, Tibetan, and Nepali classes are also offered. Students are given vocational training in traditional arts and crafts, with an emphasis on Tibetan studies. With the support of the Foundation, headmaster Yap Namgyal is introducing Buddhist studies and philosophy and is exploring new ways to introduce the teachings to children in kindergarten through 12th grade. “I think it can all be done very creatively and yet challenging for the teachers to make Buddha’s life stories and teachings accessible to all levels and ages,” says Yangchen Semo-la, who brought the school to KF’s attention. “We will need teachers to supervise meditation and cultivate good and positive conduct in everyday life.”
The school takes in many destitute children from families of cardamom field workers. When crops fail, the parents often withdraw their children from school. Yap Namgyal is diligent in making sure that none of the children are deprived of their education, even if it means having to walk for two or three days to bring students back from their villages. White Lotus Charitable Trust in India facilitated this grant by providing funds to support the needs of children. “Our elders are very happy and encouraged to see the younger generation having the opportunity they missed, and together they can observe Buddhist holidays, Buddha days, Guru Rinpoche days, and Dakini days.”
See photos of the school [intlink id=”60″ type=”post”]here[/intlink].