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Knowledge Changes Two Tibetans
"When I was enrolled in the Beijing Tibetan Middle School six years ago, my parents were as excited as if I had entered college," said 1.85-meter Nyima in hisdormitory where photos of footballer David Beckham hang above his bed.

Nyima, aged 20, was born in the pasturelands of a county in theXigaze Prefecture, Tibet. He went home only once in his fourth year of study in Beijing because of lack of money for the fare. When he did go home he took many merit certificates home to his parents.

"Even though they can't read, my parents have all my certificates on the wall," he said. "They often asked others to write to me, encouraging me to work hard and strive for universityadmission."

So far, Tibetan middle schools have been set up in 26 provincesand municipalities of the country. Among them, the Beijing Tibetan Middle School is the best one for Tibetan students. The main school building is in the same style as the Potala Palace, with white walls and a red roof.

The 700 students are Tibet's top students with 70 percent of their families being herders or farmers with no fixed income. The school offers the same courses as most middle schools except it includes the Tibetan language and culture.

"I love reading 'The Life of King Gesar' aloud. It sounds the most beautiful when read in Tibetan," Nyima said with pride. In his hometown, people of all ages can recite parts of Tibetan myths, even though they can't read or write in Tibetan.

"Those stories are mysterious and from a long ago Gesar's generals would have a singing competition with the enemy before fighting. They would give up a battle if they were all enjoying the singing."

In Nyima's dormitory, Modern Chinese Dictionaries can be seen on each of the six beds. One boy is listening to English music, another is reading Shakespeare. Outside, a newly rebuilt library stands on the left, and a two-floor dining hall is on the right.

Nyima values this opportunity to study.

"Learning helps expand my view of the world," he said, adding: "Tibetans with up-to-date knowledge should play an active role in constructing their hometowns."

Ever since Tibet was liberated in 1951, several generations of Tibetans like Nyima have left the plateau to study and returned home to contribute.

Xadrung, director of the Ethnic Education Department of ChineseMinistry of Education, is the organizer of the Chinese Ethnic Education Conference which concluded here Saturday.

He is one of the early beneficiaries of the government policy on supporting Tibet in education.

Xadrung, 54, was born into a herder family in Darlag County, inTibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Golog in northwest China's Qinghai Province. He lost his parents at the age of seven and entered the only boarding school in the town.

"Our country looked after me," he said. "For so many years, she provided me with food, clothes and school tuition fees."

Xadrung regards himself as a "life-long beneficiary of ethnic education", to which he is determined to devote for the whole life.

After high school graduation he became a teacher in his hometown. After graduating from Qinghai Ethic College, he gave up a job offer from the provincial education department, but continued teaching in the town.

Ever since then, he has always worked in education.

Every year, he spends more than eight months in the mountains and remote areas doing educational surveys. A long scar on his nose is a reminder of a landslide several years ago in west China's Sichuan Province.

To open up the west, Xadrung calls for the setting up of "senior high-schools for students from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region" in 12 provinces and regions, to take in 1,500 Tibetan students annually.

He also advocates one-year preparatory courses for ethnic students to assist them in their university study.

He organized the compilation of "Reform and Development of Tibetan Education" and "50 Years of Chinese Ethnic Education". Thanks to his suggestion, the government spent 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) to publish over 20 different kinds of textbooks on ethnic language and literature.

"The minority areas are relatively underdeveloped because of their geographic situation," he said. "But the local people need and long for knowledge.

The Chinese government is now increasing its budget for ethnic education. From 1996 to 2000, 2.2 billion yuan (US$266 million) was allocated to ethnic education.

Xadrung knows well the great impact of education, as "educationis the basis and premise for the development of every nation".

Nyima also sees a brighter future for Tibet. "Tibet is rich in tourism resources and handicrafts, whose valuewill increase if Tibetans learn how to look for and use what they find."

Staying in Beijing, Nyima often dreams of the "holy snow-mountains and soaring hawks" on the grand plateau.

"I want to study tourism if I am admitted to university," he said.

(eastday.com July 28, 2002)

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