The school was established to provide education for the very poor children in the surrounding rural area and, as a charity school, is free to students. It is freezing, barren and conditions extremely harsh, and most students travel for an hour or two to attend six days a week. We provide a cup of hot milk at lunchtime, and they go home in the dark. There isn’t any electricity, heating, and few chairs or desks. Stationery is limited, food is non existent and illness is rife.
The school is financed entirely through funds raised by Gyalten Rinpoche and is free to the students. It is supported by Khensur Rinpoche. Gyalten Rinpoche has big plans for his school. At present, enrolled students are limited to villages within walking distance of the school, but he receives frequent inquiries from faraway places such as Dege and Luhuo. Therefore he is raising funds for construction of student dormitories, so that boarding students can be accommodated. He plans to recruit more teachers, and build housing for them. He also plans to build a kitchen and outhouse, both of which are currently lacking.
In 2002 there were 260 students enrolled, aged 8 to 18; some orphaned, some with one parent only. They attend 6 days a week, learning Tibetan, Chinese, English, the four classical volumes of Tibetan medicine, mathematics, moral education, history, tailoring and art. The school emphasizes equal opportunity for both genders, and prepares students for trade or higher study. To overcome the difficulties in hiring teachers, in 1996 the school sent four students (2 male 2 female) with better academic results to study at college, paying for all their expenses. Upon graduation, they are to come back to the school to teach. The children are provided with a mug of tea each day and they sit on wooden stools or on the floor. The most urgent need is electricity for lighting and more importantly, heating as the buildings are of mud and straw, with large gaps in the windows and doors, allowing the freezing winds to blow through.
Gyalten Lobsang Shampa Rinpoche is the principal of the school. He pays for all the expenses of the school. He hired a retired teacher with more than twenty years of teaching and administrative experience to be the vice principal and to take care of everyday matters of the school.
Gyalten Private School officially opened on October 1, 1994. Under the circumstances then, the plan was to open two classes only, mainly to enroll agricultural and husbandry school-age children and handicapped teenagers, orphans, children from very poor families, from the four villages in Rongbeifen area and the nearby Gonglong village of the Shengkang area. The school emphasizes equal opportunity for both genders. That year’s plan was to enroll 80 students. But under the constant requests of many parents, the actual enrollment was 138 students, 87 being boys and the other 51 being girls. Three classes were established, and six teachers and one cook were hired. Subjects taught in school included Tibetan language, Chinese language, Tibetan mathematics, drawing, moral education, sports, etc.