Lamdon Model High School

A school in Zanskar

Situation du Zanskar

Location

  • 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 State of Jammu and Kashmir. Its 12’000 inhabitants are mainly Buddhists and make a living from agriculture and sheep and yak breeding.
  • In summer, Zanskar is accessible by a single road (track) from Kargil, 240 km away. A new road is under construction and will allow direct access from Leh in the future.
  • 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: work begins on the Residential Building Project (RBP) to provide a boarding facility for students living in remote villages not accessible by road

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.

Students in class at LMHS in 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

Les matières enseignées à la LMHS sont :
  • 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 class having passed the school graduation exam), LMHS students have obtained a success rate of 100% three times (2002, 2011 and 2016).

In 2016, Lamdon Model High School was designated the best school in Zanskar.

Student with her notebook at LMHS in Zanskar
Students from LMHS in Zanskar

Students and teachers

In 2017, the school has a total of 291 students (149 girls and 142 boys).

The teaching staff consists of 15 teachers (9 male and 6 female). Principal Sonam Tenzing 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.
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 / Exam Time