What’s going on in the Csoma Solar School during winter break?
Our volunteer’s report straight from the ice of the frozen Zanskar river. Winter schooling of children from Zangla and the surrounding villages takes place for the fourth winter in a row in the Csoma Solar School, opened in 2013.
Due to harsh winter conditions in the Himalayas the volunteers of the Csoma’s Room Foundation usually spend only the summer months in Zangla village. This year, however, Anna (Panni) Fehér set out on a trek over the ice of the frozen Zanskar not only to look for adventure, but also to see how the solar school functions during the winter. Panni decided to visit the village after two summers of volunteering. Stanzin, the son of the king of Zangla was her companion. Even though a native of Zangla, Stanzin had not spent the winters in the village since he was five.
The duo flew from Delhi to Leh where they purchased all the equipment necessary for the trek, among others rubber boots and sledges. After days of careful preparation they set out towards the starting point of the trek, but the adventure started earlier than they had expected. Only 30 km away from Leh their car ended up in a ditch. After hours spent digging the car out from the deep snow they still had to climb over a landslide to finally step upon the ice covering the Zanskar and begin the famous Chadar trek.
The Chadar trek is not exactly a walk in the park. During the three days of the trek Panni and Stanzin slept in caves, crawled under rocks, climbed over ice and kept slipping and sliding in their rubber boots towards Zangla. Upon arrival their first visit was straight to the Csoma Solar School.
They were happy to find that the building was filled with about 70 pupils from the four villages in the area – Pishu, Pidmo, Tsazar, and Zangla. The children were taught by two Tibetan teachers, hired by the village, and two local teachers. Panni reports that both children and the teachers were happy to use the classrooms, which were comfortably warm even on cloudy days. Education is organised in two shifts: the younger children study in the morning, 8th to 10th graders take their turn in the afternoon.
During wintertime there is no work in the fields, yet the locals are not idle. They either play volleyball in the main square of the village on a daily basis unless there is too much snow, or keep themselves busy making handicrafts – carpets, caps etc. They also socialise a lot, pay frequent visits to friends and family or organise picnics.
The village organised a picnic for Panni to thank the unexpected visit. Everyone from the youngest to the oldest gathered around and each family brought some delicacies kept for special occasions. During the event the locals told Panni about their desire to have more community spaces which they could use during wintertime: a library where both children and adults could read and learn, a community hall for the women to pray and make handicrafts together and of course everyone mentioned about further works on the solar school building and the lodging of the teachers.
Due to heavy snowfall Panni and Stanzin had to return a few days later than planned. The way back proved to be even more extreme than the trek to the village, but fortunately Panni returned to Budapest sound and safe.