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  • Chris McMillan

School provides a safe harbor for disabled in Tibet

China Daily

21st January 2022

School provides a safe harbor for disabled in Tibet

It is winter on the Tibetan plateau. The air is chilly with the temperature dropping as low as-30 C in Nagchu city, where winter arrives early and leaves late each year.

Students at the Nagchu Special Education School, which is located in the north of the Tibet autonomous region, barely feel the cold as their classrooms and dorms are all equipped with heating and air conditioners.

Established in 2013 by the local government, the Nagchu Special Education School has become a safe harbor for children with disabilities from Nagchu and outlying areas, and it was the first such school in the city.

Located some 4,500 meters above sea level, the school has around 100 students and 40 teachers.

It offers nine-year compulsory education to students who are visually impaired, deaf-mute or who have special needs.

All their expenses, including accommodation, food, uniforms and study materials are covered by the government.

Tsering Lhamo, headmistress of the school, has contributed greatly to the development of special education in her hometown over the past decade.

After she was appointed in 2013, Tsering Lhamo and her colleagues toured nearby counties, identifying eligible children and persuading their parents to let them join the school. Nagchu covers a vast area and most parents were unaware of the importance of special education.In the end, the school enrolled 60 children that first year.

To communicate with speech-impaired students, Tsering Lhamo taught herself sign language, and even provided teaching at home for some of the more severely disabled students.

Apart from cultural courses, the school teaches vocational skills and hobbies, among other things, massage, music, tailoring, making carpets and baking.

"We are not only teaching them knowledge and skills, but also playing the role of parents. Our daily tasks include nursing, helping students shower, doing their laundry, feeding them and helping some use the toilet," she said. "This job has led to many first-time experiences for me, including taking one of the students for medical help in another province, and many others."

Thanks to the school's efforts, more than 200 students have received an education over the past 10 years. Many of its graduates have found jobs or started their own businesses, and 17 have been able to participate in the National Special Olympics Games.

Sonam Wangdu studied for nine years at the school before he was admitted to Changchun University in Jilin province in 2022.

"As it's located on the roof of the world, my hometown's landscape and environment are both beautiful and harsh," said the visually impaired student. "But thanks to the school and my teachers, I had the opportunity to receive an education just like other students."

Sonam Wangdu said he enjoyed studying massage and music when he was at the special school, and that his favorite musical instrument was the African drum.

The 20-year-old is now majoring in traditional Chinese medicine. He is working hard toward a medical certificate and wants to start his own clinic after graduation.

"I always wish to express many heartfelt thanks to all my former and present teachers," he said. "Without their help, my dreams of the future would not be possible."

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