For the children of the mountains

Features Issue 153 Aug, 2014

Guru Ranag Rinchen Rinpoche has dedicated his life to the spread of education. Now, he wants to take it further.

We met Guru Ranag Rinchen Rinpoche, also known as Dolpo Buddha, at Hotel Himalaya in Kupondole where he was staying. Guru Rinpoche, who is a Buddhist scholar, is recognized as the fifth incarnation of a celebrated Lama. He spent his childhood in Dolpo and has dedicated his life to studying the Buddhist religion.

From Kupondole, we drove to Chapali in Budhanilkantha, where Snowland Ranag Light of Education School (SRLoES) is situated. Established by Guru Rinpoche in 2002 under the Guru Ranag Rinpoche Trust, the school started out in New Baneshwor with a total of six students. According to Guru Rinpoche, the institution was opened for two reasons. One, because 99% of the population in Upper Dolpo are illiterate and, two, due to the many sad stories of the children belonging to the 13 districts of the mountain regions.  Guru Rinpoche believed that if they received a good education, he could act as a mother figure. Incidentally, the school is established in the memory of Guru Rinpoche’s mother who passed away when he was 17.

What started with the sponsoring of a single child back in Mustang has now turned into educating 140 students, from pre-school (LKG) to the secondary level (Grade X). “A friend of mine told me educating just one child was not enough. He suggested opening a school and that’s how I started,” he says. The students are recommended by the local and village development committees and are taught in both English and Nepali mediums. This year, the third SLC batch graduated from the school.                                                      
But despite being around for more than 12 years, SRLoES hasn’t been able to move forward. They are still housed in a rented building, and that’s what saddens Guru Rinpoche the most. When he came back from a fundraising trip to Taiwan last January, the landlord asked him to move the school. “I have a feeling he asked us to leave because we were unable to build a good school despite being active for so many years. When he told us that, it came as a blow to my chest,” says Guru Rinpoche.

And that’s what the tentative plan for this year is – to build or buy a school building. So far, the school has been financed by funds raised through various campaigns and volunteers. They are now in the process of raising more funds for the building and are planning to finish it within five years. They also intend to take the school to the next level by adding a college section in the future.