Zanskar Schools Foundation

 

Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state  of India. With 10.5 million inhabitants and an area over 222.000 km2 (>85,600 square miles), it is situated mostly in the Himalayan mountains. China borders the north and  the east (Tibet), the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh to the south and the Pakistani administered territories on the west and northwest.
Jammu and Kashmir consists of three regions: Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh.


Zanskar

Zanskar is (a subdistrict of the Kargil district) is situated in the eastern part of the state Jammu and Kashmir. The administrative centre is Padum. Together with the neighboring region of Ladakh, Zanskar was once briefly a part of Guge (Western Tibet).

 

Geography
Zanskar covers an area of some 7,000 square kilometres (2,700 square miles), at a height of between 3,500 and 7,000 metres (11,500-23,000 feet). The area surrounds the two main branches of the Zanskar River. The first, the Doda, has its source near the Pensi-la (4,400 metres / 14,450 feet) mountain-pass. The second branch is formed by the Kargyag River, whose source is near Shingo-la (5,091 metres / 16,703 feet), and the Tsarap River, whose source is near Baralacha-la (4,890 metres / 16,043 feet).
To the south-west is the Great Himalayan Range and to the north-east lies the Zanskar Range, which separates Zanskar from Ladakh.

These topographical features explain why access to Zanskar is difficult from all sides. The easiest approach leads from Kargil through the Suru valley and over the Pensi-la. This is a distance of 240 kilometres (150 miles)  and can be done by jeep in 14 hours. It is along this track that in 1979 the first and only road in Zanskar was built to connect Padum with the main road from Srinagar into Ladakh.
After being integrated into the newly formed independent state of India in 1947, Zanskar and the neighboring region of Ladakh were both declared restricted areas and only opened to foreigners in 1974.

Flora and fauna
Vegetation is found in the lower reaches of the valleys, and consists of tundra species. Agriculture  includes cultivation of  barley, lentils. potatos and apricots.


Among the wildlife that can be found in Zanskar are the marmot, wild donkeys, sheep and goats.
The bear, wolf, snow leopard, ibex and lammergeyer are rare.

 

Climate
Zanskar is a high altitude semi-desert lying on the northern flank of the Great Himalayan Range. This mountain range acts as a climate barrier protecting Ladakh and Zanskar from most of the monsoon, resulting in a pleasantly warm and dry climate in the summer. During the harsh and extremely long winter period, parts of the Zanskar valley are considered some of the coldest continually inhabited places in the World.
During the winterperiod of 5-7 months the Zanskar region is isolated from the rest of India. Due to heavy snowfall and extremely low temperature.

 

Population

In April 2007 Zanskar had 13.900 inhabitants. Almost 95% of the total population practice Tibetan Buddhism. The other 5% are Sunni Muslims.
The population lives mainly in small scattered villages, the largest being the capital Padum, with nearly 700 inhabitants. Most of the villages are located in the valleys of the Zanskar River and its two main tributaries. Given the isolation of this region, the inhabitants tend towards self-sufficiency.
The Zanskari’s main occupations are cattle-rearing and crop farming.The scarcely cultivatble land is irrigated and produces enough food.
The scarcity of fertile land has also resulted in a stable, zero-growth population.  Also contributing to the population stability is the common pratice of polyandrous marriage (several brothers are married to the same wife) and the widespread adoption of a celibate religious life. The infant mortality rate is high: 50% of children die before they reach the age of five.

 

History
The First traces of human activity in Zanskar seem to go back as far as the Bronze Age. Early Buddhism arrived from Kashmir and spread its influence in Zanskar as early as 200 BC. In the 7th century Zanskar and large parts of the Western Himalaya were overrun by the Tibetans, who imposed their then animistic Bön religion. Buddhism regained its influence over Zanskar in the 8th century when Tibet was also converted to this religion.
Since then countless monasteries and monastery schools have been founded. 
Many of them are still in good shape. An increasing number of visits by tourists have made restoration possible.
In the mid-20th century, border conflicts between India, Pakistan and China caused Ladakh and Zanskar to be closed to foreigners. During these wars Ladakh lost two thirds of its original territory, losing Baltistan to Pakistan and Aksai Chin to China. Ladakh and Zanskar, despite a tumultuous history of internal wars and external aggression, have never lost their cultural and religious heritage since the 8th century. Thanks to its adherence to the Indian Union, this is one of the rare regions in the Himalaya where traditional Tibetan culture, society, and buildings survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

 

Languages
Most of the people living in Zanskar speak the local Dardic languages and also Hindi. Knowledge of the English language is not widespread.

 

Education
Prior to the 19th century, education was predominantly conducted by Buddhist monks. During the British Raj the elite was shaped by the Western education system. This system was adopted by Indian government in 1947 and nowadays consists of:
• Primary education till the age of 14. The quality of this education is worse than International standards due to lack of infrastructure, shortage of teachers and financial restrictions.
• Middle- and high secondary education. This is a preparation for higher professional education and university.
• Education at higher professional and university level.

Enormous progress has been made in the past decade. The country, however, is still confronted with an huge challenge. In spite of the growth in the number of schools, 38% (380 million) of the population is still illiterate (of which 47% are females). Only 15% of students are able to get higher education and there is a shortage of 25% of educational professionals.
In 1970, the state government of Jammu and Kashmir established its own education board and university. Both private and public schools are acknowledged by the state education board.

Education in the rural areas is limited to primary education. Due to widespread poverty, most parents lack the means to finance middle-and high secondary education for their children.
The schoolhouses are not very well built, nor maintained and the materials which are at the disposal of the teachers are of very dubious quality and often limited to less than the bare minimum.

 

Stichting Zanskar Scholen (Zanskar Schools Foundation) want to provide  help and support to teachers, (young) children and local population.

The goals of the foundation are described in the (undermentioned) mission statement:
Goals of the foundation
- Promotion and support of the education in Zanskar-India by improving the 
circumstances, supplying educational materials (locally manufactured) and
the alleviation of primary needs without limits.
- Promotion and financing of supplementary education for pupils.
- Profit generation is not the goal of the foundation.

The foundation will meet these goals by:
- Improvement of the housing facilities (schools).  Determining the needs for 
educational material and supplying the goods.
- Supporting the students who expressed the desire and have the intellectual
capacity to attend supplementary education successfully.
- Development of basic teacher skills and continuing education..