All students benefit from tuition waivers, free meals and boarding.”
Phumachangtang Primary School is in southeastern Nagarze county of Tibet’s Shannan prefecture.
Founded in 1986, the school had only three teachers and 40 pupils for the first year.
Its enrolment has grown to 108 pupils, with 40 boys and 68 girls.
Migyur has been headmaster for 14 years. All pupils receive boarding as most nomads live far from the school, he said.
“All students benefit from tuition waivers, free meals and boarding,” Migyur said.
Because of the weather conditions at the high altitude, students in Phumachangtang get 60 days of winter vacation and only 15 days for the summer holidays.
As a completely nomadic town, students mainly eat yak meat, mutton, butter and cheese. Most of them do not eat pork and chicken.
Purchasing and storing vegetables can be a challenge in winter as the average temperature is -30 C, teachers said.
The crucial yak, sheep and other livestock are also on the fringe of survival.
Transportation can still be inadequate and barriers remain in accessing information because of the tough environment.
Faced with difficult communication and economic conditions three decades ago, the nomads of Phumachangtang were initially reluctant to send their children to school.
Many of them now support schooling. They see education as a way to a better life.
The town has a population of about 1,000. Five people work in the government agencies. There are 40 students in middle school and eight students in colleges and universities, local residents said.
It is a place that constantly challenges the limits of human survival. Oxygen content in the air is less than 40 percent of that at sea level and the average annual temperature is -5 C.
The average life span of the 883 Phumachangtang residents in the year 2000 was 40 years, local statistics showed.
The population has increased to 1,003, with an average life span of 45 years, still far below the national average of 74 years.
To help improve living conditions, there are plans to relocate the primary school to the town’s Namoche village at an attitude of 4,900 meters, Migyur said.
“Moving villagers is not that simple, as most Tibetan nomads prefer to live in a higher place.”
The Phumachangtang Primary School, the world’s highest-located primary school, has 108 students. Set up in 1986, the school provides free compulsory education.
To provide a better environment for students where the average annual temperature is -5 Celsius, the school built a greenhouse where students can do their homework.
The school has improved its facilities in recent years. A computer lab was installed and put into use on December 5, 2014.