A Tibetan Education Initiative
In some of the most remote locations on the Tibetan Plateau, orphaned and destitute children live and learn under harsh conditions. Angel Covers has supported girls at risk of child marriage to create a brighter future.
Girls in this program are often orphaned, while others come from families of impoverished nomadic yak herders, where the average family income is well below the international poverty level and the size of most families is six or more. These students show enormous academic potential and undergo a rigorous selection process including academic testing, personal interviews, recommendations from prior teachers, and demonstration of extreme financial hardship, in order to be accepted to our high school program. Many of them are the very first girls in their village to be accepted to high school and want nothing more than to be allowed to learn. We know that their mothers hold that same wish – for their daughters to be given an opportunity to receive a formal education that was never open to them. The local school curriculum includes language studies in Chinese, Tibetan, and English, as well as Tibetan cultural studies (history, literature, music, and art) in addition to the usual subjects of math, science, and history.
After high school graduation, some students have completed vocational school and become nurses, while others have pursued higher education and become skilled in traditional Thangka painting. Additionally, many of our students have passed the extremely competitive national college entrance exam and have been accepted to university. These college students have earned degrees in Tibetan medicine, music, Tibetan language and literature, and English and Chinese languages, as well as physics, geology, biology, engineering, and computer science. Many have returned to their home villages as doctors or teachers after college graduation, improving not only their own circumstances and that of their families but also improving the quality of life for entire villages and future generations. Our Tibetan education students are intelligent, ambitious, and determined young women who, once educated, are able to lift themselves out of poverty and give back to their communities. In all, more than 400 girls have completed their education through the Mama’s Wish Program.
Yaks for Remote Schools
Yaks for Remote Schools is a self-sustaining project that provides yaks to rural boarding schools for orphaned and impoverished children in the most remote locations on the Tibetan Plateau. These impoverished schools have few resources, leading to poor nutrition.
The purchase of yaks allows for the production of enough milk for the schools to make butter, cheese, yogurt, and milk tea. The schools burn yak dung for heat and cooking throughout the year. The yaks allow schools to increase the amount of milk supplied to the children and/or increase the frequency in which they are able to receive it. Since 2006, the Yak Project has provided more than 325 yaks and dzomos (yak/cow hybrid) to more than 6,400 children in 19 different schools. Although some yaks were lost during harsh winters, many more yaks have given birth, resulting in a net growth of the project. We look forward to reopening the Yak Project as soon as possible so that more children can receive nutritional support to help them concentrate in school and keep them warm in winter.
Living in extreme climates creates great and varied needs. For fifteen years, Angel Covers has supplemented its Tibetan Education program with several projects as needs are identified. These projects provide both the individual and universal needs of schools and students.
- Our first Tibetan project in 2005 involved partnering with another organization to assist “The Little Classroom Under Heaven,” so-named because it was held entirely outdoors. Located at 4200 meters altitude, devoted students walked or rode horseback for up to three hours each way every day to study at the makeshift school. A school building was purchased and included classrooms and a small dormitory to house the students during the long winters. Once complete, we provided desks and school supplies for the classrooms, blankets for the dorm, yaks to improve nutrition, and coats, hats, gloves, socks, and shoes for every student.
- A primary school, whose classrooms were unsafe and had begun crumbling around the students, was renovated and winter clothing provided to the students.
- Solar showers were built to improve hygiene for students attending a school that houses students from primary through high school. Yaks and winter clothing were subsequently provided to the students.
- Working with local residents, a greenhouse was built at one of the lower elevation primary schools, which now produces fresh vegetables for school children and teachers.
- A goji berry orchard was established in 2007, and is harvested each year to benefit a small school. This self-sustaining project allows the school to earn enough profit from the sale of the goji berries to pay for heating the entire school and dormitory each winter and also supplements teacher supplies.
- Tuition, room, and board were funded for hundreds of primary school students.
- Blankets, coats, hats, gloves, socks, shoes, backpacks, textbooks, dictionaries, school supplies, and hygiene items have been provided to hundreds of students of all ages across the Tibetan Plateau. College entrance exam tutoring has been provided to high school students, and laptops have been provided to college students.
- Earthquakes in Qinghai and Sichuan in 2008, 2010, and 2015 presented special challenges, and relief was organized to assist the families of our students who lost everything in those earthquakes.
The Tibetan Education programs have been an integral part of the Angel Covers story, and we look forward to returning to the Tibetan Plateau to reopen our programs as soon as possible.