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Private school brings opportunities to Tibetans

(Xinhua)

14:43, July 13, 2013

LHASA, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Tenzin Dhondub had only 15 students when he turned a courtyard home into a classroom to teach the Tibetan language in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

Back in 1994, he was among few local professionals proficient in Tibetan, Chinese and English. His friends and family members said he was insane when he gave up a well-paid government job to pursue his teaching dream upon graduating from Tibet University in Lhasa.

Over the past 19 years, his classroom has expanded into the Dung-Dkar School of Languages, where more than 20,000 students have learned Tibetan, Chinese, English and computer skills that have helped them find jobs in the service sector.

At least 60 percent of the students had not received any formal education before they attended Dung-Dkar.

"I hope the school will one day evolve into a university," Tenzin Dhondub said as he saw his students off on their way home after school.

The school, which opened in 1994 in a community near the Ramoche Temple in the heart of Lhasa, provides language training to adults who have never received formal education.

"I named it 'Dung-Dkar,' which means 'white conch' in Tibetan. Dung-Dkar is one of the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism," he said.

An English major himself, Tenzin Dhondub felt it was important to teach young people English so that they could learn more about the outside world,and secure jobs at hotels, stores and tourist attractions that foreign visitors often frequent.

By 2007, the school had 1,200 students and more than 30 teachers. It also marked only year that the school made a profit.

In most years, it has been hard to make ends meet. As the school's principal, Tenzin Dhondub often spends his own money to keep the school running.

In 2010, the school was moved into a three-story building on Sera Road, a more spacious place where rent is high.

"Many classes are running at a loss, with only five or six students. Their tuition fees are not enough to cover the teacher's salary," said Lobsang, the principal's assistant.

The school runs day and night programs and every semester lasts for four months, Lobsang said.

"The night program, for example, has 1.5 hours of classes every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Tuition costs 430 yuan (70 U.S. dollars) per semester, averaging 4 yuan for each class."

The teachers' salaries range from 3,000 to 6,000 yuan a month according to their workload.

Lobsang said he does not quite understand why the principal is willing to keep the school running at loss. But Tenzin Dhondub has been confident.

"I can always make up for the losses," he said.

As the school has hired more teachers, Tenzin Dhondub himself is frequently engaged in other businesses: running a hotel in the famous tourist destination of Namco Lake and a real estate company.

He earns at least 200,000 yuan a year with his side businesses and spends about half of the money to subsidize his school.

Student Tenzin Dhondub said he had always dreamed of becoming a teacher as a child.

"By fulfilling my own dream, I've helped keep many young people's dreams alive," he said.

Zhoigar, a student from Xigaze, registered for a three-year tour guide qualification program at the school in January.

"When I was a child, it never occurred to my parents that I should go to school and there was no school near my nomadic home," said 24-year-old Zhoigar. "When I came to Lhasa, however, I found it was impossible to find a job if you could not read and write."

Drawn by Tibetan culture, many students from other parts of the country have also registered for the school's Tibetan language program. Many are migrants from inland provinces, although there are some students from Hong Kong and Macao as well.

"I feel proud that so many people are keen to learn Tibetan and I'll try to make the school a better place for them," Tenzin Dhondub said.

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