Over 2,000 kilometers from Tibet, about 14,000 Tibetans live in exile in Bylakuppe, Karnataka which is a 2 hour drive from Mysore. Today I visited their Central School for Tibetans in Bylakuppe (CSTB). The school was founded in 1961 shortly after the Karnataka state government gave land to the Tibetans who had fled Tibet with the Dalai Lama.
The school is in the state of Karnataka but funded by the federal government. There are 550 students from 6th to 12th Standard at the Secondary School. There are four primary feeder schools in the surrounding villages. Like all schools in India they have a tri-lingual system of instruction- the local language, English and Hindi. Tibetan is the main language from 1st Standard to 5th with some English. From 6th Standard and up, English is the language of instruction. Students continue to take Tibetan in secondary school and Hindi is added to their curriculum. Students might also know some Kannada which is the local language of the Indian community of Bylakuppe.
Once I again, I witness what it is like living in this multi-lingual country. When I arrived this morning, there was some confusion about my entry into the camp. The principal thought I might need a special permit from the local police station for the school visit. Thankfully, Issac my taxi driver, was able to translate my purpose in Kannada to the local Indian police station. And then explained to the principal in his native Malayalam that the visit was fine. (Malayalam is the official language of Kerela, his home state next to Karnataka.) I watched in awe and give Issac a nice New York tip.
The school was like many Indian schools I have visited except most of the children are Tibetan with a sprinkling of Indian students. The school follows the CBSE curriculum like DMS, Mysore and the 10th standard students have their CBSE exams coming up. Since the school is administered out of Delhi teachers come from all over India and are both Tibetan and Indian. Many of the teachers have taught in other camps as well. Like most schools there are portraits of Gandhi and other Indian leaders. But at CSTB a smiling Dali Lama joined these men. I meant to get a photo of this!