Value of education
Gangshar Rinpoche, a Buddhist master of Shechen Monastery, spent most of his young years studying and practicing Tibetan Buddhism. After seeing the problems that his people face, and especially the sad situation of many orphans he abandoned comfortable monastic life of a incarnate lama and set out to establish a school for them. He explains:
“People living in this area have good hearts, they are Buddhists, compassionate and warmhearted. Yet most are uneducated and this is a big problem; they don’t know how to think. As a result they commit many unskillful deeds, bringing problems upon themselves and society.”
“Without education and without practical skills they are unable to provide for themselves and they depend on others. Not only in one life; this dependence is passed from one generation to the next.”
“With education and useful skills people can do whatever they want, otherwise they have no choices in life. If they want to do business they will be equipped to do it well, if they want to become monks or nuns they will have the foundation to become good monks or nuns, if they want to pursue higher education they will have the necessary knowledge, if they want to work for the government they can do the job well.”
“People who are educated and can think about what is right and what is wrong will obey the rules and be of benefit to society. People who are poor and have no education have no choices, no discrimination between what is right and what is wrong, They don’t know how to take care of themselves or their family; they can become thieves, criminals, a problem to society.”
“All of this is true for normal children in the area. For orphans the situation is even more difficult. They have no one to properly care for them; they are without home, without basic livelihood and without opportunities. So it is more meaningful and urgent to build school to care for the orphan children. Through it orphans can have a good life and good care, can receive proper education and become good people who will know how to take care of themselves and others. Their knowledge and values will be passed on to their own children. In this way the school will gradually benefit the whole of society.”
Beyond basic education
Learning to read and write is only the basis for gaining more advanced and useful knowledge. At the same time the written word is not the only avenue for gaining skills and experience, for developing children’s talents and creativity. Many things can be learned through practical work and experience, and through personal interaction with teachers and other students.
Preparing for adult life
In general, children of the Shechen Charity Orphan School will follow three educational paths: some will continue education in secondary schools and universities, some will join monastic institutions. But for most - due to their age, interests and abilities - neither of these will be an option. These children need to receive sufficient and relevant vocational training to be able to start their adult life and provide for themselves. As orphans they have no family that can help them and support them in this endeavor; the school with its community will have to fulfill this need.
Therefore strong vocational training program will be implemented, teaching children skills relevant to the local community and useful for the life in their homeland, including greenhouse farming, growing medicine plants, animal herding, environment protection, making handicrafts, working in tourism, etc.
Education not as a means to escape
Education program will allow students to appreciate their homeland, to learn how to use its resources effectively and sustainable in order to create a good life for themselves and others.