Education in an open-minded environment
I came to E.S.Tibet in mid November, planning to stay only 6 weeks. Luckily for me, the school asked me to stay for longer as one of the next volunteers couldn't come. I did a TEFL course in Mexico 2 years ago and already had a little experience of teaching when I arrived here.
So far, this has been the most rewarding, enjoyable and inspirational thing I have ever done. The students are here because they made a decision to leave their own situation in Tibet and give themselves a better chance and opportunity in life. For me to be part of their experience is really an honour.
Imagine you had left your home and family in the middle of the night, not knowing if you would ever see them again. You have a few possessions and maybe a bit of money. You are making a political stand against the way the place where you live is run, which means that maybe you can never go back there. You face an extremely long journey, most likely by foot the whole way. Along the way, you risk being caught by Chinese guards, maybe thrown in prison and tortured, maybe killed. Perhaps you get ill on the way, perhaps you have to leave all your possessions as they become too heavy to carry, perhaps you run out of food for days. You have to do the journey in winter when the ground is frozen enough to walk on across the mountains; the journey might take you up to 3 months depending what luck you have on your
side. For you it is all worth the risk in order to get to a country where you will be free to practise your own traditions, language, and culture in safety, and to receive an unbiased education in an open-minded environment, and maybe even to wave a Tibetan flag without fear of being arrested.
Now imagine what we have in the Western world, how free we are, how much education we have, how many opportunities we have, how much money we can make and spend, and how many times we complain about our situation and wish things could go better for us in some way or other. We take everything for granted, we believe it is our right to have what we need, and what we want, from basic shelter and material needs, to freedom of speech, happiness, love and success. But strangely we are not very happy. Though it is a huge cliché to say it, I don't consider that here in this school it is me that is the teacher and them the students.
I have never heard a bad word between any Tibetans, or an argument or complaint about anything. What little they have they are grateful for. They are hard-working, friendly, respectful and responsible. The school is not only about teaching English, but is about encouraging them to be confident and realise their capabilities within a supportive and accepting family of fellow students and teachers. What the future holds for them who
knows, but as long as I can be part of making their present situation as fun, useful and productive as possible then that is the most I can do.