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Here are a few shots of typical classroom scenes at the Mayul School. Currently there are three types of classes offered, Chinese language, three levels of Tibetan language, and math. The school also offers courses in ethics. There are plans for a class in thangka painting to begin in winter 2009.

First Level Tibetan Grammar Class

First Level Tibetan Grammar Class

Attentive Students

Attentive Students

Math Course

Math Course

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Hungkar Dorje and Students

Hungkar Dorje and Students

Hungkar Dorje is founder and president of the Mayul (Qinghai) Gesar Foundation and the driving force behind the establishment of the Mayul School.

Mayul School Sentior Faculty with Hungkar Dorje (center)

Mayul School Senior Faculty with Hungkar Dorje (center)

Students, Faculty and KU Team

Students, Faculty and KU Team

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eric& kids 1

students at grammar lesson

detail of thangka

At a little more than a year old, and even in the midst of its construction, the Mayul School is progressing toward its goals of preserving Tibetan culture and providing vocational training for Tibetan adolescents in Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, China.

Chinese is the language of instruction at all state sponsored schools, which means that Tibetan students who graduate from them are often illiterate in their own language. To counteract that trend, all of the classes at the Mayul School are in Tibetan and the faculty have made Tibetan language learning the cornerstone of the school’s curriculum. Even as the school is still under construction, it is currently offering three levels of Tibetan grammar instruction from basic to advanced. Students in the basic classes learn the fundamentals of Tibetan grammar while the advanced classes study Tibetan poetry and literature. Other courses currently offered include Chinese language and ethics.

Vocational training will begin this winter with a course on thangka painting taught by a disciple trained in the Rekhong tradition, the most famous school of painting in Qinghai province. Thangka painting is a form of religious art in high demand within Tibetan communities and gaining an audience worldwide. This allows thangka painters to earn a good livelihood. A two-year course in thangka painting is currently in planning for students at the Mayul School with classes beginning this winter.

The school’s curriculum responds to the different types of students currently enrolled. Some students have received a few years of elementary school education in public schools. Others, who are monks or nuns, have studied in monastic schools such as the nearby Thubten Chokorling Monastery and nunnery. But for many students this is their first experience studying in a classroom.

All of the students share an eagerness to learn as exhibited in the twice daily English language classes that a group of faculty and graduate students from the University of Kansas is leading during their visit to the school this summer. Student excitement at learning is demonstrated by their quick and loud responses to any question or chance to show their knowledge. While listening, students usually clasp their hands behind their backs and strain forward to catch every word. As educators, these are the types of students we take most joy in working with.

–Eric Rath

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administration bldg

cafeteria

grammar class 2-1

The climate of the Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture with its cold winter temperatures only allows for building construction less than half of the year, so that even as some 90 students ages 10-21 are now taking classes at the Mayul School, building is moving forward rapidly on the rest of the campus during the summer months. Classrooms, dorms, offices, residences for teachers, the cafeteria, and a dining hall are already complete, and these are in full service. There is also a small campus store where students may purchase school supplies. Additional classrooms, dorms, and an administration building with a library are under construction. When these are complete in a few months, 100 more students will be able to study at the school in the fall. Though made of modern materials, the architecture follows traditional Tibetan building styles. Eventually the campus will serve 600 students in a three year program of study.

Inside, the classrooms are well lit thanks to large windows, high ceilings, and whitewashed walls. The same is true for the dining hall. Students and teachers live on campus. The student dorms are clean and well cared for like the rest of the facilities.

–Eric Rath

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School Plan

The Chinese government has granted the Mayul Gesar Foundation (also known as the Qinghai Gesar Foundation) a permit  to design and build a multi-disciplinary school in Gande County, Golok Prefecture in a location approximately 45 km southeast from Gande County Town.  This school will serve as an educational facility for 200 students, boys and girls, ages 14-21, who are chiefly from the local nomad population.  Nearby Lgon-ngon Thubten Chokor Ling Monastery, the largest Nyingma monastery in Gande, has donated 18 acres for the school site.  Capital expenditure for this project is being funded by private donations.  Other funds for the school’s operation will come from private donations, a modest tuition, and the sale of handicrafts by artisans affiliated with the school.

The Gesar Foundation will provide training in technical skills at the school, using Tibetan as the primary language of instruction in classes ranging from introductory computer use and machinery maintenance to education in traditional medicine and art forms such as sacred painting (thangka).  Through this integrated curriculum of modern and traditional knowledge, the school aims to provide young Tibetans with skills that will help them gain more diversified livelihoods and greater financial independence and to ensure the preservation of longstanding native cultural traditions of woodworking, fashion design, and pictorial representation.  The preservation of traditional culture is especially important since inter-generational skills in these areas, which have been historically passed down from elders, are on the brink of dying out.

Construction of the Mayul School began on April 13, 2008, and the buildings should be half finished by September 2008 with the completion of living quarters for 57 students, a staff of teachers, classrooms, and a kitchen.  Ultimately, the school will include a ten classroom vocational school to be staffed by 15 teachers, an 80-room dormitory, office, library, and other facilities. With a portion of the buildings completed in September, 100 students will begin their studies at the Mayul School in courses in Tibetan, Chinese language, and woodcarving.

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Project Summary

A team of faculty from the University of Kansas (KU) School of Fine Arts and the departments of history and art history will partner with the Mayul (Qinghai) Gesar Foundation, a charity run by Tibetans in Gande (dGa’ bde) County, Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, and its American branch, the Golok Blue Valley Foundation, to initiate educational programs to benefit the local Tibetan population and facilitate the development of a local vocational school, the Mayul Region Multi-disciplinary School.  Drawing on faculty expertise and the substantial technical resources of a Research I university, the primary goal of the project is developing programs at the Mayul School specifically a curriculum in traditional artistic techniques, particularly carving, painting, and related skills thereby preserving traditional artistic expertise and providing vocational skills.  In the process, we hope to identify mutually beneficial connections that will contribute to broader local plans for development.

These projects will develop in three phases.  Phase 1 will begin in Gande in 7/2009 where KU faculty will gain firsthand knowledge of the area, make specific plans, and launch programs with local collaborators.  Phase 2 will occur at the University of Kansas in 1/2010 when instructors and students from the Mayul School travel to KU for ESL and specialty training, for further collaboration, and site visits to area vocational schools.  Phase 3 in 7/2010 will mark a return of KU faculty to Gande to monitor progress of the programs established and develop plans for KU faculty and students to assist with projects in the future.  To continue the programs set in motion during the grant period, we will work with the KU Center for East Asian Studies to set up an ongoing service-learning program for KU students, who will assist the Tibetan teachers with the arts curriculum at the Mayul School.

This project is funded by a U.S. State Department Ngwang Choephel Fellowship.

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