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The Story behind the Kunsel School at Demul Village in Spiti† Valley††

Demul Village is one of the tiny and isolated villages in the Spiti valley, perhaps the most remote and not easily accessed. The village sits at an elevation of 4350 mts above sea level. Over the last decade Spiti valley underwent a lot of changes and developed in very many ways. However, the people of Demul village have not caught up with others in Spiti valley and are still relatively uneducated due to being cut off from the rest of Spiti and the world during the length of the winter season. The heavy snowfall Demul receives during the winter months makes the only route that leads to the village impassable for months at a stretch and the villagers are forced into a hibernation of sorts during this period.

A few years ago, in order to remedy this situation of children remaining uneducated for lack of access to a school, we adopted two children from Demul village and sent them to an English medium school. In order for these children to be away from home and attend an English medium boarding school they need to be old and capable enough to take care of their basic needs. Unfortunately by the time they start in upper kindergarten, they are at least two years older than their class mates. We saw that the children managed with this all too obvious difference in their age till about the time they reached fifth class; but after this their classmates starts harassing these children and they started feeling ashamed and out of place in their class because of their age and the fact they are bigger compared to other children. The children then start trying to escape from the school and this miserable situation of not being able to fit in with their peers.††

I tried to generally advise parents to send their children early enough so that they are not disadvantaged in terms of their age and the ability to relate to their classmates. However, mothers donít agree with the idea of sending their small children far way at such early age, when they are still attached to their mothers for their basic needs.!

Through this simple process of observing childrenís progression within the education system and the challenges they faced, we developed a deep appreciation of the importance of early childhood education. If children are not provided learning opportunities and exposed to ideas in a kindergarten school but left to spend their childhood playing in dust, stone and dirty water, we are leaving them to a destiny of being disadvantaged all through their lives. Till they reach the age of 5 or 6, children must have access to early childhood education while they are still in the care of their parents

This led us to the realization that we need to provide for comprehensive care and development of a child at this budding stage while not tearing them away from their parents. After a lot of thought and advice received from His Holiness Kyabje

Zonsar Khyentse Rinpoche in Pin Monastery Spiti, my friend Mr. James from Kerala about the importance of bringing early childhood education to children of the village I decided†† to open nursery school. It was named Kunsel (KUNSEL) which means a Buddhist world covered in light or a state where all darkness is dispelled brought into brightness!

In order to achieve this important goal of bringing early childhood development and education to Demul, I borrowed an old and messy house from one Mr. Padma Tsering under a 30 year lease agreement, appointed four teachers and one peon, and we started our Kunzel School on 1 December 2014 with 25 (twenty five) children.

The overall aims and objectives of the school are:

  1. to take care of childrenís early education and development
  2. to promote education after nursery
  3. to conduct workshops for parents and guide them on childrenís education and development.†
  4. to open Spiti self help group of mothers†

When I started the school I didnít put a lot of thought into the continued obligations of paying teachersí salary and meeting other expenses; but I was hopeful of finding patrons to support this important cause. After few months of operation I can now clearly see the benefits this school brings to a lot to children and that the arrangement has been nicely working out. At the same time our weak financial situation could easily jeopardize this new venture. We met the initial expenses of the school with a little bit of money that is actually meant for the nunnery we started two years ago. However, we will not be able to continue spending funds from nunnery account to maintain the school for the longer term. Therefore our immediate second step, as we see it, should be to find good souls who would extend their patronage to ensure the success of this budding effort. Such patrons should help us with: (i) teachersí salary, (ii) childrenís uniforms, (iii) the ongoing maintenance of the school building and installing solar power, and (iv) stationary and other supplies.

†We will be very obliged if your organization is able to help with this cause of helping these needy children in their education and development. You could also help us by putting us in touch with others who may be able to help find a solution for the ongoing financial needs of the school.

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