Protecting the Child?

The right to education is guaranteed in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child to which the People’s Republic of China is a State Party. An interview was recently conducted by TCHRD in Dharamsala, India, with a young female student who arrived in India from Tibet in late March 1997. Her testimonial reveals that Chinese educational policies are directed towards the benefit of the Chinese teachers rather than the Tibetan students.

“My name is Sangmo. I am a 15 year old girl from Nyethang under Chushul County in Tibet. My father died a few years ago after he suffered a stroke and so my mother works with my elder sister on the farm. My elder brother is a painter and I also have a younger brother who is only two years old.

“I attended a Government school and since many of us were from poor families we did not have to pay school fees. However, when any construction is required at the school each family must send a representative to work on the construction site. This is compulsory. In my school we have until the sixth standard and it is more or less the primary education that we receive there. There are sufficient numbers of teachers in this school and students who pass their examination are sent to China for further studies on a special scholarship basis. However, often children of rich families from other schools are granted this scholarship through bribes and the poor ones are deprived of this facility.

“Nonetheless this is not the end of education for us. We are further encouraged to go to Lobdring (middle school). Students of various ages are admitted to Lobdring for the duration of three years. I was there for only two and a half months. There was nothing special I could learn as many of the teachers were Chinese and they were not sincere at all in wanting to educate us. The most they would do was to read the text; they would never see to it that the children understood. The new policy recently introduced is that of compulsory education. If the Chinese authorities find out that children are left at home rather than going to school families are fined or a portion of their land is confiscated”.

While this policy appears outwardly to represent an improvement of educational rights in Tibet, the PRC reportedly has an ulterior motive in filling schools in Tibet with students. Where there are insufficient numbers of children attending a school there is a risk that the Chinese staff members will be cut or that the school will be closed. Moreover, Chinese teachers are reported to do little beyond making an appearance in the classroom in order to safeguard their jobs. In this sense the policy has little educational worth.

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