According to confirmed information received from Tibet, the Chinese authorities closed down Kirti Monastic School (Tib translit: kirti’ nang bstan slob gling) on 29 July 2003 and it’s patron, Soepa Nagur, (Tib : bzod pa sna sgur) dissappeared since 31 July 2003.
The students who are all monks and fall in the age group of 7-20 years old are concerned about their studies. Many have gone back to their respective homes while some have joined Kirti Monastery to pursue their studies in Buddhist philosophy.
Official closure of the school and disappearance of its chief patron
As per information received by TCHRD, Ngaba Kirti Monastic School was briefly closed in March 2002 but later reopened after repeated appeals from the public. The school had been a constant target of the local Chinese authorities since 1998 and on 29 July 2003, it was officially closed.
On 29 July 2003, when the school was closed for vacation, Chinese officials visited the school and brought down the Chinese national flag hoisted in the school compound and declared the school officially closed. Since the school session was to resume on 20th August, the authorities declared that students could join Bontse School (a government run co-education school in the county) if they wish to continue their studies and orders not to return to the school were issued.
On 31 July 2003, Soepa Nagur, the chief patron was summoned to Chengdu, Sichuan Province, for a meeting regarding the school. Soepa has not returned since then. His whereabouts remain unknown and the benefactors are concerned about his safety. Soepa Nagur was a generous businessman who donated parts of his business profit in the construction of monasteries, for activities in preservation of Tibetan culture, and in educational infrastructures. In 1996, he traveled to India to receive Kalachakra teachings (Tibetan buddhism wheel-of- time teachings). During the period he sought audience with the Dalai Lama and also Kirti Rinpoche based in India.
Background information on Ngaba Kirti Monastic School
Ngaba Kirti Monastic School located in Ngaba County (Ch: Aba xian), Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan, was established in 1994 through the generous donations of Soepa Nagur. At the time of its inception, the school housed over three hundred novice monks and more than twenty teachers. Almost all of its students were from poor rural areas where there is no education facility. The school was a boon for the poor farmers and nomads who subsist on daily earnings and could not provide for their children’s education. The school’s popularity gradually rose and by the end of 1998, there were around eight hundred students.
The school is under the governance of Ngaba Kirti Monastery and the daily administration is run by four Tibetans; Choephel, Principal, Gedun Tenzin, Vice Principal, Trulku Jigme, Senior Disciplinarian, and Dakpa Jinpa, Disciplinarian. The curriculum included elementary Buddhist philosophy, elementary Budhist dialectics, history, astrology, grammar, poetry, wisdom, prayers, and Tibetan caligraphy. The school produced a magazine called “Choedhung” and a newsletter. The school invited scholars from various fields to impart broader education to the students. It also organises handwriting competitions as well as other activities in the county and the winners are enrolled into the school.
Authorities’ interference in the school
In 1998, the Chinese authorities showed their first resentment on the school commenting that the school must teach Chinese language and socialist theories. They also directed the school to merge with Bontse School and follow the government regulated school curriculae. Kirti Monastic School administrators disagreed with the authorities directives as the school houses only monks and inclusion of lay students would hamper the student’s monkhood codes. Some senior student-monks pledged to leave the school if the school was to merge with another.
However, on 28 August 1998, the authorities took over the governance of the monastic school from Ngaba Kirti Monastery and renamed it as “Chathang Nubsang” (Tib translit: Ch’ thang nub srang) School. The takeover was marked by a celebration wherein high-level authorities graced the occasion and the students were made to hoist the Chinese national flag and sing the Chinese national anthem. Teachings of the former teachers were restricted and four Chinese teachers were recruited into the school to rewrite the curriculum making Chinese language the main subject. Furthermore, in October 2001, the monk-students were ordered to wear normal Chinese school going uniform instead of their monk robes. Students who wrote the former name of the school on their books were punished and writings in the school magazine and newsletter strictly controlled. Many students unable to adapt to the new regulations left the school.
In 2001, when the school was being merged with Bontse School, none of the students were willing to go to the other school. The school was disintegrating and concerned parents and general populace held a meeting wherein they voiced their concerns. The concerns were brought to the authorities notice through a representative and the school was able to return to its normalcy although for a short period. But when the situation was not getting better, the parents apparently pulled out their wards saying “it is better to be illiterate than to be sinicized”.
Washington Post, on 19 September 2003, reported that the UN special rapporteur on education, Catarina Tomasevski, heavily critisised the country’s education policies. Speaking to reporters after a two weeks of meetings and interviews in Beijing, she blasted the government’s ban on religious schooling and a system of arbitrary school fees that forces many families into debt.
Monastic schools in Tibet have been the backbone of education for Tibetans. Such schools have always catered to the need of education to the masses who could not pay exorbitant school fees laid by the government. The Chinese government has been targeting monastic schools as they are deemed to be teaching “splittist” idealogies when in reality the curriculae in monastic schools are based on Tibetan culture and budhist philosopy. The latest to face closure is Ngaba Kirti Monastic School.
TCHRD is gravely concerned at the fate of the students and the whereabouts and well being of Soepa Nagur, the patron.
TCHRD calls upon the Chinese authorities to provide details of Soepa Nagur’s location and his physical status, and to reopen the school and to allow the school to follow its traditional studies based education curriculae.