Pairings remove barriers in Tibet school

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A middle school in Lhasa, in the Tibet autonomous region, is pairing students from different ethnic backgrounds to help them become friends and break down cultural barriers.

The Lhasa No 2 Middle School, where a fire lit by rioters burned down two buildings in 2008, has been bringing students together in recent years, helping them to learn about, and respect, each other's culture.

Tenzin Yangkyi (right) and Huang Yang get to know each other in a pairing program at Lhasa No 2 Middle School in the Tibet autonomous region. [Photo: China Daily] 

"Students of Tibetan, Han, Hui and other ethnic groups used to be unfamiliar and distant, despite studying in the same school," said Yang Qingchun, 25, the director in charge of the friendship project and a physics teacher.

"They communicated less mostly because they often played with their peers and spoke their own languages between classes."

The school has 998 students. Each year, it has five classes taught in the Tibetan language and two classes taught in Mandarin.

Yang said the school begun coupling students with common interests from different classes three years ago, so that they can break down misunderstandings and the barriers between them.

"Soon after we introduced them, I found many started playing basketball together and some even telling their secrets, which they chose not to reveal to classmates."

Yang added the new friends "felt subtle ties binding them" and their parents have also become acquainted, having visited their children's friends' families during festivals.

More than 160 students have been paired with each other, according to Yang.

Drumo Yudron, 16, said she learned about the lifestyle of students from other parts of China through the program.

"They have good virtues that I can learn from. But what I feel most is that I made so many new friends."

Li Xixi, 13, said the girl she was paired with, Tenzin Drolkar, is very nice and friendly. They talked about their dreams and the methods they use to study.

"I'm glad that she taught me some traditions that Tibetans practice."

On March 14, 2008, rioters attacked people, looted and set fire to the city. Some 800 students of the Lhasa No 2 Middle School were evacuated to the playground, where they sat for three hours from 1:30 pm, watching two of their school buildings burn.

Li Wuhong, a teacher, witnessed the incident. Li said students were kept inside the school grounds for their own safety. Although they could not see the violence outside the walls, they clearly heard the terrifying sounds of the rioting and looting.

Li said the friendship program, along with other activities such as class discussion, have helped students to move on, and taught them to cherish a happy life.

The school has also invited grandparents of the students to take part in class discussions and share stories about their lives and their view of the world.

"The programs are important," said Yangjen, 57, grandmother of a student at the school. "Children have to learn how to be a good person first. Otherwise it is meaningless to learn any knowledge."

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