Chinese authorities in Tibet have set up a region-wide network of boarding schools for Tibetan children, separating them from their parents and homes in a bid to reduce their contact with their native language and culture, a new report by a Tibetan rights group says.
Classes in the schools are taught primarily in Chinese and feature intense political indoctrination, according to the report titled Separated From Their Families, Hidden From the World, released in December by the Tibet Action Institute.
The schools are described by China as a way to provide education to a Tibetan population spread over vast areas, but are really part of an assimilation campaign promoted by Chinese President Xi Jinping “to eliminate threats to Chinese Communist Party control by eliminating ethnic differences,” the report says.
Describing the boarding schools as Chinese “colonial projects,” the Institute said that approximately 800,000 Tibetan children of ages up to 18 now live in the schools, where they suffer psychological and emotional trauma caused by forced separation from their families and culture.
“And the implications for whole generations of Tibetans and the long-term survival of Tibetan identity are grave,” the report says.
A Tibetan teacher quoted in the report said that Chinese authorities in eastern Tibet now require children aged four and above to live in the schools, where “teachers only speak in Mandarin and conduct all school curriculum in Mandarin, including nursery rhymes and bedtime stories.”
“When they join primary school at age seven, hardly any of them can speak Tibetan,” the teacher said.
“Every day for three years, I never felt happy starting a day or going to class,” one former boarding school student said, also quoted in the report. “My only thought was, ‘When I get to go back home,’” he said.
Private schools warned
Private schools in Qinghai province’s Golog (in Chinese, Guoluo) county have meanwhile been warned they may be shut down, as China moves to standardize its approach to education in Tibetan areas, Tibetan sources say.
Schools now under special scrutiny in Qinghai include the Ragya Institute and the Tadrak Private Institute, where Tibetan monks and nuns who have traditionally taught classes are now forbidden to teach, one source told RFA.
“Beginning this year, the drive to teach the Chinese language in Tibetan schools has escalated, and [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s political ideology is now being taught in the schools,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“It has also become very difficult to learn what is happening in these schools on a day-to-day basis,” the source said.
All textbooks in the schools will eventually be translated into Chinese, another source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Teachers and students must ‘transform their thoughts,’ monks will not be permitted to be teachers, and the schools will not present classes on Tibetan Buddhism,” the source said.