All stu­dents ben­e­fit from tu­ition waivers, free meals and board­ing.”

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

LI ZI­HENG / XIN­HUA

The Phu­machang­tang Pri­mary School, the world’s high­est-lo­cated pri­mary school, has 108 stu­dents. Set up in 1986, the school pro­vides free com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion.

JOGOD / XIN­HUA

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.

LIU KUN / XIN­HUA

The school has im­proved its fa­cil­i­ties in re­cent years. A com­puter lab was in­stalled and put into use on De­cem­ber 5, 2014.

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