Lamdon Model High School

A school in Zanskar

Location

Situation du Zanskar

Lamdon Model High School (LMHS) is located at an altitude of 3600 meters, on the Ufti plain, near Padum, administrative capital of the Zanskar Valley.

This region, in the far north of India, close to the border with Pakistan, is part of the Union Territory of Ladakh. Its 12’000 inhabitants are mainly Buddhists and make a living from agriculture and sheep and yak breeding.

In the summer, Zanskar is accessible by a dirt road from Kargil which is 240 km away and passes over the Pensi-La at 4400 m. Since 2019, the road from Darcha in the south has been made driveable via Shinku-La (5090 m). Since 2019, the road from Darcha in the south has been made driveable via Shinku-La (5090 m). A new road has been under construction for several years now and in the future it will lead directly from Leh through the Zanskar River Gorge.

The climate of Zanskar is relatively dry throughout the year, but as from September, abundant snow falls on the Himalayan foothills block mountain passes. Zanskar is then plunged in an almost total isolation, during 8 months of the year.

The only winter communication route between Zanskar and the outside world is the perilous course that follows the frozen Zanskar River, also known as Chadar.

How it all started

It is at the end of the 80s that Marc Damiens, French trekker, discovers Zanskar, a lost valley of the Indian Himalayas, nestled at more than 3600 meters of altitude. To get there you must climb the Pensi-La, a pass at 4400 meters, which is not accessible in winter because of the snow. As a result, Zanskar is kept in total isolation for 8 months of the year. The only link with the outside world is a frozen river, a perilous route through gorges over a distance of almost 100 km. Only a few caravans dare to venture there each year to reach Leh, the capital of Ladakh.
Very quickly, Marc Damiens becomes enthusiastic about this region and its inhabitants, the Zanskarpas, and wishes to be able to help this Buddhist population in a concrete and lasting way. With the help of an interpreter he speaks with the locals and realises that what they need most is a school. The Zanskarpas want their children to be able to attend a school approved by the Indian government without giving up their local culture, language and traditions.
Back in France in 1988, Marc Damiens creates an NGO whose goal is to offer quality education to the children of Zanskar. On their side, some very motivated parents get organised in an association and, with the authorization of Pedma, the Dalai Lama’s sister, establishes the Lamdon Model School within the Pipiting monastery, near Padum, capital of the Zanskar valley.
Lamdon Model High School Zanskar

LMHS milestones

1988: opening of the Lamdon Model School (LMS) in the Pipiting Monastery, near Padum

1991: construction of the first school building on the Pipiting plateau, near the monastery. From its opening, this school can accommodate nearly 200 students.

2000: due to its good results, the LMS is granted the status of “High School” and is now called Lamdon Model High School (LMHS).

2001: a second school campus (Main Building) is inaugurated in the Ufti plain, near Pipiting. The capacity increases to 300 students.

2010: Installation of Internet and a computer room

2011: start of the construction of a new school campus (New Building Project) in partnership with Architectes Sans Frontières

2014: Official inauguration of the new campus

2015 and 2016: renovation of the Main Building (classrooms and exterior painting)

2017 – 2019: construction of an eco-friendly residential building (Residential Building Project -RBP) that will provide on-site accommodation for 24 students living in remote villages that are not accessible by road

2020: postponement of the RBP inauguration ceremony (scheduled for July) due to coronavirus. For the first time in over 30 years no AaZ member can go to Ladakh

Children sponsored by AaZ-CH

Education and results

The school year

Given the particularly harsh weather conditions (it can be as low as -35°C in winter), children are on holiday during the coldest months of the year.

The school year starts in March and ends in November.

Students attend school 6 days a week, from Monday through Saturday.

This video (17′) was made in 2012 by René Coquard, member of AaZ France. He follows little Rigzin Gurmath (8 years old) during a typical day at Lamdon Model High School.

Elèves en cours à l'école LMHS au Zanskar

Curricula

The school has 12 classes:

2 pre-school level classes (children from 4 years old) : Lower Kindergarten (LKG) Upper Kindergarten (UKG) 10 classes for primary and secondary levels (from I to X)

Class X corresponds to a first year after post-obligatory education in Switzerland (15-16 years). A Secondary School Certificate is awarded at the end of the schooling.
The majority of students who have obtained their graduation certificate pursue higher education outside Zanskar. These young boys and girls represent an immense hope for the region and the resettlement of some of them in the region can only help promote its development and strengthen its identity.

Subject areas

The subjects taught at the LMHS are:
  • Mathematics
  • Sciences
  • History and Geography
  • Civic education
  • Bodhi (Tibetan dialect of Ladakh and Zanskar)
  • Urdu (official language of the State of Jammu and Kashmir)
  • Hindi (one of India’s national languages)
  • English

Results

Since 1999 (first promotion having passed the end-of-study exam), LMHS students have achieved a 100% success rate 5 times (2002, 2011, 2016, 2018 and 2019).
In 2016, Lamdon Model High School was designated the best school in Zanskar.
Ecolière et son cahier à la LMHS au Zanskar
Elèves de la LMHS au Zanskar

Students and teachers

In 2019, the school has a total of 323 students (175 girls and 148 boys).

The teaching staff consists of 15 teachers (9 male and 6 female). Principal Sonam Tundup and the teachers are assisted by 5 to 6 additional persons who provide housekeeping, surveillance and maintenance.

LMHS Teachers and Staff

Management and control

Managing Committee

The school is managed by the local Managing Committee composed of 4 people (President, Secretary General, Treasurer, Chairman).

The Managing Committee is elected for a 3-year term by the school parents.

Each year, the Managing Committee prepares and submits projects to the AaZ France association, which decides whether or not to accept and finance them.

A delegation from AaZ France visits the site every year (during the summer period) to meet with the Managing Committee to review the progress of current projects and discuss future developments. A report (summer report) is published each year following this visit.

Indian Education Authorities

Although Lamdon Model High School is a private school, it is subject to the same constraints and obligations as all schools in the Indian Union: curricula, tests, examinations, authorisation to open new classes.la Lamdon Model High School est soumise aux mêmes contraintes et obligations que toutes les écoles de l’Union Indienne
The school is periodically inspected by the school authorities of Kargil District and the Ministry of Jammu and Kashmir State.

Year-end exams

The end-of-year examinations assess the knowledge acquired during the year and are the basis for promotion to the next level. In case of failure, students have the opportunity to repeat a school year.
The exam results are regularly sent to the AaZ France association, which, in turn, forwards them to the students’ sponsors.
LHMS / Examens