To explain why he liked his art teacher the best, 16-year-old Dainzin Tanam could not write more words than a simple sentence "Because he teaches me painting."
In the eyes of his teachers and peers at the Lhasa Special Education School, the deaf boy was a little painter. Five years ago, however, all Tanam could do was to stay in bed until noon, and then stare at the sky through the window, waiting for his parents' return.
His mother Yangzom said she had no other choice but to lock him in the house every day as she and her husband had to work and they did not want to allow the boy to roam the streets.
"Every day when I came back home and saw my lonely poor son, I felt my heart hurt. But now I can finally feel a bit relieved," the mother said.
She said it was the school that changed his son. "Without the school, I dared not imagine how my son would be now."
The family lives near the Ramogia Monastery in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The mother runs a grocery and the father is a driver. Tanam has a brother and a sister, who are now both in primary school.
With a governmental fund of 4.5 million yuan (US$554,870), the special education school was founded in 2000. The only government-run school for disabled children in Tibet, it now has 28 teachers and 120 school children in nine classes of 5 grades. Eight classes in the school are for deaf kids and the other one is for blind kids.
Students can enjoy free food, boarding, clothing and medical services in the school, which is open to deaf and blind children from all over the autonomous region.
Tibetan sign language and Tibetan Braille are basic courses here. Colorful illustrations for Tibetan sign language are painted on the wall along the stairways, and the slope corridor is designed for the blind.
Children also have Tibetan, Chinese, mathematics, science, painting, dancing and sports lessons.
Tanam loves painting best.
A "black and white" textbook seemed appealing among the colorful books in Tanam's schoolbag. The text was handwritten.
It was the Tibetan language textbook compiled and written by teachers themselves.
"As textbooks for students in ordinary schools sometimes are too abstract and hard for our kids to understand, two other Tibetan language teachers and I compiled the textbook to make things easier for them," said teacher Dawa.
"We don't have a color duplicating machine, so we can only give these kids black and white ones," the 28-year-old man said.
Dawa graduated from a local teacher training school in Lhasa and then received one year's training in special education in Beijing before he came to the special school.
There are still four years before Tanam graduates from this special school. Schoolmaster Huang Wenhong, however, said that the school has already started to think of these children's future after graduation.
"We hope the children can enjoy their life by supporting themselves after leaving here. I think this is the purpose of my school," Huang said.
The school has designed vocational training lessons for students. Currently, they are learning to make Tibetan opera masks. The school employs a professional handicraft man for the lesson.
Huang said the school also decided to open a training lesson for Tibetan carpet weaving, but currently the school does not have enough space for the lesson, as it needs room for carpet weaving tools, like a framework.
The current office of the schoolmaster is a makeshift room in the student dormitory. She gave up her own office for teaching uses.
"The two-storey classroom building is not enough, as we have more and more children every year," she said.
Things should be better soon. Huang said that the autonomous region has decided to expand the school, and four other similar schools will be built across the region in the next five years.
The expansion program, Huang acknowledged, is part of the region's educational development plan.
"Then we will have no lack of classrooms, and children in remote areas need not be separated from their parents for school,” she said.
Tanam also has had a plan for his own future. In his vocabulary, however, there seemed to be no such a phrase like " to be a painter". When asked what he wants to do after he grows up, the boy wrote at ease "to paint."
(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2005)