The first 50 students at the inauguration of the Tibetan Refugee Educational Institute, Mussoorie.
The first residential school for Tibetan refugee children was started by His Holiness on 3rd March, 1960 in Mussoorie with 50 students ranging from age 13 to 35. Subsequently, a separate office was established under the re-organized Tibetan Government-in-Exile to look after the education and welfare of the children which was named as The Council for Tibetan Education. This Education Council later started two residential schools in Simla and Darjeeling in 1961 and 1962 respectively.
The first 51 children who came from the Jammu road construction camps receiving an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Swarg Ashram (the first residence of His Holiness in Dharamsala, which currently houses the Regional Mountaineering Centre, Tushita Road, Mcloed Ganj).
The arrival of 51 children from the Jammu Road Construction camps on 17th May, 1960, led to the establishment of the Tibetan Refugee Children’s Nursery with Tsering Dolma Yabshi (elder sister of His Holiness) taking the responsibility as the head of the Nursery. Subsequently, the Government of India rented out Conium House (site of the present Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts) to house the children. Until that point, the children were assigned to be looked after by members of His Holiness’s entourage.
The Council of Tibetan Education had sent a number of children and older students to Europe and the United States to receive general education as well as technical education. Their education was sponsored by individual donors and organisations. The first group of 25 children were sent to Pestalozzi Children’s Village in Trogen, Switzerland in October, 1960. This first group of children was accompanied by a Tibetan teacher cum foster parent Rakra Rinpoche and his wife Samten Dolma.
In September 1961, the Tibetan School Society (TSS) formally took over the Tibetan schools starting with Mussoorie. With this hand-over, the Society took over the responsibility for all the expenses and as well as the administration. English was introduced in the schools as the medium of instruction so as to bring the Tibetan education system into the modern era. At the same time, keeping in mind the rich Tibetan traditions and moral values, special focus was placed to teach Tibetan language, religion, literature and history. The Tibetan School Society was later renamed Central Tibetan Schools Administration (CTSA), in 1966.
In 1962, when CST Mussoorie was unable to take in more children due to a lack of space, a temporary transit school was started at Conium House, Dharamsala under the charge of T. Samchog. Later, a house was purchased in Dharamsala which came to be known as Lower Transit School and when more children arrived, another transit school was opened at Retreat Kothi and came to known as Upper Transit School. In total, 3,576 children passed through these two transit school before it closed down in 1968.
A teacher training school was established in Kangra in March 1964 to ensure the knowledge & skills of the many learned lamas & monks could be shared with the next generation of Tibetans. This school was headed by Zemey Rinpoche, and the trainees were taught modern teaching methods along with some general knowledge and English by a Canadian teacher, Judy Pullen.
A total of 1856 children had been sent to various residential schools by 1971 from the Nursery, however, there was still 789 children with nowhere to go. To take care of the educational needs of those children, the Nursery was formally registered as a society and was renamed the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV). It also became a full-fledged member of the SOS Kinderdorf International on 10th January, 1972.
The first batch of exile Tibetans graduating from school was a group of eight students from CST Mussoorie in 1969.
Sitting, L to R: Karma Yougyal, Tsewang Norbu, Geshe Lobsang Tharchin (religion teacher), Paljor Gyatso, Sichoe Dorjee
Standing, L to R: Karma Gyatso, Tsering Tashi, Tsering Dorjee, Dawa Tsering (missing in the photo)