In the spring of 1988, a Tibetan exile named Soenam Jamyangling travelled together with a delegation from 5 European countries to Tibet. Soenam had not been to his homeland in 28 years. Even though there had been much development during this time the standard of living was still very poor, especially in the countryside. Children had no schools from where to learn to read and write. The delegation faced poverty and were deeply affected and moved to act. No child should be left without education. The government in Lhasa was contacted to investigate the matter of starting a boarding school in the village of Katsel, some 70km northeast of Lhasa. A school which would be able to take care of orphans from the neighbouring villages. The negotiations took many years but finally in 1993 an agreement was formed, and the first school began to be built. The Katsel School was finished one year later and was celebrated immensely, and the children came pouring in.
During the years that followed, many more buildings were put up for both teachers and students. A food court, nurses office, showers, football pitch, greenhouse, and library. The children come from poor upbringings and many of them have lost their parents. The children who are allowed to study at the Katsel school were picked out be the government and a local secretariat. The Katsel school was also named one of the best schools in the district. Many parents want to send their children to the school, but a selection must be made to help those most in need. The village has flourished since the school was built and now there is hope for the future. Many Tibetans regarded the work of the School Society to be fantastic. The demand for education in the country is so large and so people turned to the Society’s organisation in Lhasa with their desires. The idea of building more schools came into action and the “108 School Project” was created in 1996.
During the following years many schools were renovated, and new ones were built, all including libraries, in remote areas of the Tibetan countryside. Distances are vast in Tibet and many of the schools lie in very remote areas where you are only able to get by horse or by foot. Financing for the schools came from private donations and grants from SIDA. In the year 2006 the schools were finished and the Swedish- Tibetan School and Culture Society had achieved its goal – 108 schools and libraries in the Tibetan countryside!
The School Society has vastly changed the education system in Tibet. With the help of Tibetans, Swedes, Americans, and others the School Society now take care of more than 13 000 student. The libraries have also been much appreciated by both children and adults. Books are important and the libraries are filled with books of all kinds, included are some of Astrid Lindgrens books which have been translated into Chinese. The Tibetan culture is strongly influenced by Buddhism. In most handicraft and art can Buddhist motives be found. The daily life is influenced by thoughts of good action, care of others, kindness, non-violence, and respect. The children are brought up with a natural care of other living beings. The Tibetan culture and humanism go together. Children learn an ethics driven way of looking at themselves, their neighbour, and the world around them.
There studied more than 250 000 students at the schools in the years between 1996 and 2006. The caretaking of these schools has since been given to the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Since 2006, the School Society has continued its work by supporting students who wish to continue their education at university and college or handicraft schools. The Riksel-Lindh foundation was established through a large private donation. It needs continuous refilling to be able to fulfil its purpose: to provide means to the children who wish to study. The School Society has also continued working outside of Tibet. Today, it supports new projects in the Himalayas, the betterment of the environment, and giving support to the Tibetan culture. Many schools, hospitals, orphanages and retirement homes, munk- and nunneries and retreatcenters have been built of financed with the help of the School Society in and around the Himalayan mountains in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Even replanting trees, irrigation systems, artificial glaciers, and the promoting of knowledge regarding the environmental issues the Himalayas are facing are all a part of the School Society’s current objectives. Read more about our WORK IN THE HIMALAYAS or our other PROJECTS.