The first phase of TCV's mega project to start a new Tibetan College for higher studies in Bangalore is close to completion, as admissions should be opened to prospective candidates by July, 2008.
Tibetan college site in Bangalore
In order to get a feel for this truly exciting project, I travelled on a rickety bus to the site in Banglore, where building is already under way.
The sky above Bangalore, a city of moderate temperature, was turquoise-blue. After travelling for almost an hour, I finally arrived at my destination. The moment my eyes lit on the logo of the college, my heart was filled with immense pride and overwhelming joy, to see that Tibetans in exile are able to start, on their own initiative, a college which will offer both traditional and modern systems of learning to our students!
A sturdy mild-mannered man extended his greetings, and cordially invited me into the campus. He was none other than Tsedor-la, a staff member I knew when I was a student at the TCV Bylakupee, just five years ago. Tsedor la was accompanied by his colleague, Gyen Lobsang Dawa. During my ensuing conversation with them, I learned that the project to build the college is being supervised by seven Tibetans, who work day after day under their guidance.
The construction of the college building began actually in November, 2006, and is expected to be completed within four years. Presently, the first phase of the construction is nearing completion. It consists of a giant four-storey building intended as classrooms, two mega hostels for both male and female students, an enormous staff living quarter and an opulent library. The whole campus covers an area of more than 140 hectares, with the college buildings themselves occupying an area of almost 40 hectares.
When I asked if they had encountered any serious obstacles when the project first began, Tsedor la and Gyen Lobsang Dawa had this to say, "We faced a few problems with the local community when the fencing of the university compound began. Apart from this we haven't faced any serious problems. Of course, on a personal level, we felt a bit lonely after having spent a long time away from our wives and children!"
The university buildings and the surrounding spaces were designed by a Japanese architect, who was also the brainchild behind the construction of the Norbulingka Institute in Dharamsala. Moreover, given the fact that 2006 was considered an inauspicious year for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one thousand trees have been planted across the college compound for his well-being and long life.
The first admissions to the college will be in July 2008. The teacher training institute of the TCV will be shifted to the college compound, and a brand new computer class will be started. Preparations are underway to admit around twenty students in the teacher training class, and no less than forty students for the computer class. Apart from this, a complete Tibetan program will be instituted in the college.
I also had a brief conversation with Gyen Tsewang Yeshi la, the director of the TCV schools, during which I asked him about the subjects that will be taught to students at this college. Regarding this, he said, "When the construction of the college is completed in four years, and once the actual learning begins, we hope to have more than three thousand Tibetan students enrolled in the college. Apart from these students, we also hope to entice foreign students. We are also seeking help and cooperation from the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, Varanasi, so that we can give an education to our students that is not only contemporary but also deeply rooted in our traditional Tibetan values. As far as Tibetan students graduating from schools in Tibet are concerned, if they have the required qualification in Tibetan and degrees, I don't think they will face any problems in getting admitted to this college."
And with regard to the recognition and registration of the college, Gyen Tsewang la said, "Ama Jetsun Pema la has been really working hard on this. In order to get recognition, the university needs to be affiliated either with the University of [Karnataka] or under the auspices of the University Grants Commission (UGC) of the Indian Central Government. After a prolonged period of discussion regarding this, a final decision has been reached to get the university affiliated to the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. Although Sarnath Tibetan University has the opportunity to get any university affiliated to it, so far this has not been possible, due to certain unavoidable circumstances. Therefore, if the university is affiliated to the Sarnath Tibetan University, then we can hope to have our Tibetan students educated in both the modern and traditional fields of learning, the core of which is Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan language. More discussions and consultations are underway; the groundwork has already been laid. With the cooperation of Sarnath Tibetan University, we are hoping to get it affiliated and registered. There are many detailed issues to be resolved, which are being handled by the Education Officer and the Director of the Sarnath Tibetan University."
I also asked Gyen Tsewang la whether the college will be ready with the necessary courses and programs that will enable it to rub shoulders with any of the best colleges in India. He said, "All these issues are being discussed with the authorities of the Sarnath University, which offers courses equivalent to the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts, with particular emphasis on Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan language, history and so on. Our goal therefore is for the students to obtain degrees equivalent to the BA and MA, with special focus on Tibetan language. We are also investigating ways to find additional funds needed to be spent on the college once students start enrolling."
In order for this exciting project, which concerns the education of Tibetans and the preservation of Tibetan heritage, to succeed, another precondition that needs to be fulfilled is availability of funds. The project has been started with an initial budget of more than five hundred million Indian rupees, according to Gyen Lobsang Dawa, who also commented that "This project has been initiated primarily under the leadership and efforts of Ama Jetsun Pema la; apart from this we are being supported by many donor agencies and organizations. In particular, we received a fund of Rupees 360 lakhs (royalties from the books authored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama) from the Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama."
Now that admissions will open soon, Ngawang Dorje la, the Education Officer, has already put a brake on his work at the TCV, and has been shifted to the college in Banglore. He has already decided to start his work on getting the college registered and finding staffs and professors from 16th February, 2006. The article is by Gendun Gyatso. It appeared in the recent issue of the Tibetan newspaper, Bodkyi Dus Bab, and is translated by Tenzin Nyinjey, Managing Editor of Tibet Journal, LTWA.