Overview

Serkong School's main building and classrooms.
The Serkong School was established by Tabo Monastery on 29 May 1999 (Serkong Tsenshap Rinpoche's 15th birthday). On that day each year, the students and teachers celebrate both the school's anniversary and Rinpoche's birthday.

Presently the school has 274 children ranging in age from 5 to 14 years old. Classes 1-8 study the subjects English, Hindi and Bhoti (Tibetan) languages, Social Science, Social Studies, Maths and General Knowledge. The upper classes also study Computing, Sanskrit language and Art.

Serkong School's new hostel at Dharamsala, for final year students.
Fifteen teachers coordinate the study curriculum to match national student standards and to prepare the students to be able to continue their high school study in Dharamsala, under the care of the Serkong Hostel in Himachal Pradesh.

Most students at Serkong School are boarders and live in the school's hostel accommodation, receiving all their care and food needs by the school. There are also some day students that attend the school.

Tabo Monastery is involved in the management of Serkong School. Geshe Sonam Wangdui has been a driving force behind the development of the school. Geshe-la believes that the school is of great importance to not only help preserve the rich traditions of the valley but also give the local children a modern education.

The school does receive some support from the Indian government. The Indian government provides approximately 50% of the ongoing costs, the rest comes from student fees and donations.

The Serkong School has a number of new building projects that are aimed at greatly increasing all aspects of the educational and student care functions of the school. These building projects also have huge benefits for the local community.

Donations towards Serkong School's building projects and the on-going care of the students are very much needed. All donations are greatly appreciated.

SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS

His Holiness The Dalai Lama visiting Serkong School 2003.
Construction of the Serkong School began in 1999. The school buildings have been constructed using traditional rammed earth methods and incorporate solar passive design elements.

As a result of the success of the school thus far, there is a waiting list for children to enter. Due to financial restraints, only one class (of up to 20 students) is admitted per year. The school has filled its accommodation hostel for students.

The rudimentary buildings are in place (classrooms, hostel, kitchen) but with the increase number of school children other school buildings are required.

NEW BUILDING PROJECTS

The immediate requirements were listed as:
1. A new hostel to accommodate the extra students. This will also enable the boys and girls to have separate quarters.
2. A library building and books. Donations of books are currently being sought from publishing houses, educational bodies and other interested parties.
3. An assembly/community hall able to accommodate 400 seated people, to be utilized by the school and wider community. (The library will be upstairs in this building)
4. A health centre, featuring the combined use of traditional herbal and allopathic medicine. This building will also provide some beds for sick patients, as there are currently no facilities for this in Tabo. This health care facility will serve the school children and the local community.
5. Ongoing sponsorship of the school's annual budget. (The 40% not covered by the Indian government). This includes salaries for staff, stationary and textbooks, food for the children, fuel (wood and gas) for heating and the kitchen.

BUILDING METHODOLOGY

The new buildings will be a synthesis of old and new techniques. This incorporates the age-old rammed earth construction used widely in the area for its thermal properties (temperatures range in Spiti from plus to minus 30 degrees Celsius) and ferro-cement foundations, beams and columns for strength. This has proved successful in a number of existing buildings, including the school classrooms and the hostel.

The main expense for these buildings is the construction material, which needs to be transported through difficult terrain. Labour from outside the region is imported when necessary and where possible local support is utilized.

A team of French architects, who have studied design in the local area, have drawn up the current plan incorporating modern advances where possible.

PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION

A board of directors functioning under Geshe Sonam Wangdui implements the project. This has worked well as it involves the local people in making decisions about the future of their community. Geshe Sonam Wangdui brings an educated mind and wider perspective to the community and has the trust of the people he has lived with for 27 years. His assistant Ven Zangpo, a local Spiti monk with good English, Tibetan and Hindi, efficiently supports Geshe-la and has attended to monastery affairs for many years.

The monastery operates a bank account with the State Bank of India, to which donations are sent. All international donations are required by Indian law to be reported and remitted to the project for which they are intended.

(Read more about how to donate to Serkong School)

THE HOSTEL PROJECT

The new hostel will be larger than the existing hostel. The new hostel will have improved dormitory space, rooms for study, storerooms, bathrooms and a greenhouse on the sunny southern face.

The greenhouse will serve the purpose of providing fresh vegetables year round and form an integral component of the 'solar passive' design, trapping warm air that then is circulated through the rest of the building. This has been used successfully in other school buildings.

This hostel will accommodate more students than the existing one and will be the girls hostel. There are a larger number of female students at the school, due to some of the boys going to Tabo Monastery. These boys are educated in a similar fashion with their own small primary school. They have additional philosophical studies.

THE LIBRARY PROJECT

This project has three parts, involving the construction of the building, the collection of the books and the transport of the books. Support for any of these projects is greatly appreciated.

(Read more about how to donate to Serkong School)

THE BUILDING

The library building will be incorporated into the construction of the Assembly Hall. The library will be the separate upper level.

It is envisaged that the library will be utilized by not just the Serkong School children, but also the monks of Tabo Monastery, the community of Tabo village, tourist groups, travelers, scholars of the region and even the wider community of Spiti. As such it is designed with multiple sections to accommodate the various users.

The library will occupy only half of the available hall roof space, allowing for room to expand in the future if there is an increase in users and/or books.

The library building will be in the Serkong School grounds, near the front entrance, so that access by non-school members will not interfere with the operation of the school. There is a strong communal bond between the school, the monastery and the village, all forming integral parts of the wider community. As such, having shared facilities in this way serves to strengthen the sense of community that is present.

THE BOOKS



Books are currently being sought from any organization or individual able to help. In particular we are contacting publishing houses, libraries, educational institutions, etc. Used books are naturally accepted, providing they are in a reasonable condition.

Books of the following subjects are requested:

- Special emphasis on books in Hindi, although English books are also greatly appreciated.

- Children's readers, any age.

- Books about India or by Indian authors, in particular of Himalayan focus.

- Atlases, encyclopedias, dictionaries (of any language), geographical books, reference books of any kind.

- Illustrated journals, manuals, nature books.

- Photography books and photographs.

- Historical, political, general knowledge books.

- Language and grammar books, in particular English, Hindi and Tibetan.

- Comparative religion, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, etc.

- Environmental issues books and magazines.

- Education, Economics, Law books.

- Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Technology, Psychology books.

- Art books and art collections.

- Literature and quality fiction.

TRANSPORT

In addition to sourcing the books, transport is a major issue. Serkong School, in conjunction with Tabo Monastery, has a storage facility in Delhi. The books can be stored here and when sufficient quantities have accumulated can be transported.

In getting the books to Delhi we are requesting transport companies to donate any available space on their couriers. If you are able to provide any assistance with regard to this then please contact us at the provided postal or email addresses.

THE SCHOOL ASSEMBLY AND COMMUNITY HALL PROJECT

An assembly hall is a requirement of any modern school, especially where the climate range is as extreme as it is in Tabo.

In addition to school use the hall will provide a much-needed venue for the local community. It will be able to accommodate up to 400 people. This will fill an important role in the community of Tabo.

Uses for the hall will include:

- School assembly.

- School body meetings.

- School and community performances.

- Tourist and special guest performances.

- Celebrations.

The hall forms the ground floor of a complex including the library upstairs. The building will be in the Serkong School grounds, near the front entrance, so access by non-school members will not interfere with the operation of the school.

THE UNIFIED HEALTH CENTRE PROJECT

A small government run dispensary presently serves Tabo with two doctors who rotate their services and a small pharmacy. The nearest hospital facility is in Kaza, some 2 hours away. There are at present no beds for the ill in Tabo.

It is envisaged to construct a small Health Centre which will have:

- Beds for sustained care.

- Nursing staff.

- A medical doctor (general practitioner).

- An Amchi (traditional medical practitioner).

Amchi's utilize the traditional herbal medicine of Tibet and the Himalayas. They are the traditional medical practitioners of the region. The medical schools for training Amchis are based in Dharamsala and Sarnath, where rigorous study and practical training takes from 6 to 9 years to complete.

It is hoped that a centre utilizing both traditional and allopathic medicine will provide a diverse and quality health care service and also prove to be an inspiring educational stimulus for the school children.

Presently medical practitioners are not from the region, so their term of practice is usually short lived. It is hoped that in the near future local people will undertake medical training and return to the region to provide health care and medical attention, giving the service the stability of long-term tenure.

Currently school children (who are mostly boarders) are required to return to their village for care if they should fall ill during the school term. If extended care is required then this may still be necessary. However, it is hoped that for immediate and intermediate care, children will be more adequately cared for in the health centre on the school grounds.

As with the library and the hall, it is envisaged that the health centre will serve the wider local community. The building will be located on the Serkong School grounds, away from the school buildings so access by non-school members will not interfere with the operation of the school.

THE SCHOOL SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM

In addition to raising funds for the development of the school infrastructure, there is the difficulty of covering the ongoing costs of the school. The expenses are increasing each year as more students enroll and more staff are required.

The expenses can be broadly grouped into 4 categories:

- Staff salaries

- Fuel for heating and cooking

- Food for staff and students

- Uniforms , textbooks, stationary, miscellaneous academic equipment

The Indian government subsidizes the school to the amount of 50% of its expenses.

The remaining 50% is being met by the school fees paid by the students and general donations to Tabo Monastery. The monastery would like to be able to offer scholarships and discounts to students in need and is currently unable to afford this.

The teachers are working for below award wages and the school is desperately lacking even basic equipment - such as textbooks for the children, let alone luxuries such as simple sporting equipment.

It has been therefore recommended that sponsors be found who can contribute, even a small amount, annually for a period of five years. This would allow the principal and the school board to plan ahead with their budget and to make some basic purchases for the future progress of the school.

The following are suggested Annual Sponsorship amounts:

- Level A : $1,000 per Annum

- Level B : $500 per Annum

- Level C : $250 per Annum

- Donation: any amount you can afford, particularly if committed to a 5-year period.

All Sponsors and donors will receive an official receipt from Tabo Monastery, along with a certificate of appreciation signed by Geshe Sonam Wangdui and Serkong Tsenshap Rinpoche.

Sponsors who are able to meet level A or B commitments will receive a fine quality photograph of the school and students annually.

If you are interested to become a sponsor or have any queries about it please contact us at - tabomonastery@yahoo.com

DONATING TO THE SERKONG SCHOOL

The school exists as a result of the generosity of international sponsors. As such, it relies on your support.

Tabo Monastery, run by Geshe Sonam Wangdui and Ven Zangpo, oversee the Serkong School and any programs involving it. Together with the local community they have inspired and built an already successful school that now needs further funds to be able to improve.

There are no intermediaries between the sponsor and the organization utilizing these funds. That means that all funds paid into Tabo Monastery account are utilized directly for the projects for which they are intended. The Monastery body, with the local community, oversee the construction of buildings and the ongoing management of the school

Monks receive no salary from these projects, as their local community and international sponsors independently fund them.

Tabo Monastery is a charitable trust, registered under the name 'The Institute of Studies in Buddhist Philosophy and Tribal Cultural Society Tabo'. All donations will receive an official receipt detailing this, allowing for tax benefits, depending on your local tax laws.

To donate to the Serkong School and Tabo Monastery, please visit our donations page.

Thank you very much for your interest and generosity.

A SPECIAL APPEAL FOR THE SERKONG SCHOOL

We created the Serkong School in order to help support poorer students, by providing free room and board. The school presently has 310 students, but the old school building is need of renovation. The growing student population also needs an additional dormitory (hostel) building, and funding for these efforts is urgently needed.
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PERMIT REQUIREMENTS TO VISIT SPITI

Indian nationals do not require a permit. Foreign tourists are advised to apply at the DC office (District Collectorate office) at Shimla or Rekong Peo, Himachal Pradesh, for a permit to visit Tabo from Kinnaur side.
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