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A class of their own

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-25 16:10

A school offers vocational and language training to Tibetan herders, whose nomadic upbringings didn't allow for formal education. Chen Nan reports.

Tibetan herder Pamo migrated to Qinghai province's capital Xining from the Yushu Tibet autonomous prefecture's remote Nangqen county to find a job in 2006.

A class of their own

Life of herdsmen through pictures

But he discovered translating his dream into success was harder than he'd imagined, because he didn't speak Mandarin and couldn't read Chinese characters.

Pamo is exactly the kind of person Chosum, who is also from Nangqen, is devoted to helping.

"What Pamo said shocked me," Chosum says.

"He couldn't order food in restaurants or find the toilet. There are many Tibetan herders coming to big cities looking for jobs who face similar problems. I wanted to do something for Pamo and people like him."

That's why Chosum founded a school to teach them marketable skills.

Nomadic lifestyles are the main reason many herders lack education. For centuries, many Tibetans have frequently moved their tents to find fresh grazing land for their yaks, horses and sheep.

But such an unstable upbringing hinders children's education and isolates them from society.

Chosum also grew up on the grasslands, but the 31-year-old attended school in Xining from age 6.

He explains some herders never attend school. They live their entire lives herding on the prairies.

"Some seek jobs in cities but can't speak Mandarin and lack other skills," he says.

"So, they have nothing to do all day. They kill time in bars or playing video games. Some eventually turn to crime."

This understanding led Chosum to open his school, Limin Xuetang, in the mountains about 8 km outside of Xining in 2006.

He previously did business in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou, exporting traditional silver and jade Tibetan jewelry to India and Nepal. The business did well enough to enable him to live a decent life.

Despite his family's opposition, Chosum - the fourth of seven children - has poured his savings into the school.

Limin Xuetang began after Chosum posted his idea online. Two bags of children's clothing donated by friends provided the first push toward the school's development.

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