Manjushri Lamdon School Sakti Leh Ladakh
Spending the weekend, I visited a local private school in Ladakh, Manjushri Lamdon School Sakti Leh Ladakh. The school is 1.5 hours away by car from central Leh, in a hilly area of the region. The school was established in 1996 by German donors, and since then the school has run mainly with tuition only. It’s typical that donors pay for the school establishment but not for the operation. The school offers the program from lower kindergarten to grade 8.
Since the establishment, 634 students have enrolled. Among them, 239 graduated, 222 dropped out, and 173 are here now. The graduates in many cases go to higher education, and some became doctors, engineers, and the other high-paid professionals. Most of the dropouts are due to economic reason. The family couldn’t afford the tuition.
The school teaches Bhoti (local language), Hindi, English, Science, Math among others. The tuition varies according to the grade. Kindergarten-level fee is INR 1,055 per month, lower grade is INR 1,200, and higher grade INR 1,400. On average annual tuition is around INR 2.6 million.
From the tuition, the salary for 14 teachers are paid. Principal looks after two classes only, and the other 13 teachers take care of 28 lessons per week — a lot of assignments. Their average salary is 14,000 or so, and the annual compensation is approximately INR 2.4 million. The principal told me that the tuition is determined such that they can manage the necessary expense to run the school.
As is the case in many other social sectors, many teachers cannot continue to work there due to location, salary, etc. The teacher composition is half very young teachers (2–4 years) and half experienced teachers. The school reminds me of the school I used to stay.
The principal, Mr. Dhondup Tashi, spent 20 years at the school, and 18 years as the principal. He also speaks surprisingly fluent English. It was evident that he does this job because he loves it.
Annual INR 15,000 tuition is not what every household can afford. Thus the school raises scholarship funds by collaborating with the local NGO. I met two kindergarten kids and visited their houses. The life of the family was not economically easy, but the parents wished their kids to study as much as they can. When I asked a question “as long as the scholarship fund is there, would you send them to the school regardless of your economic difficult?”, both parents answered yes without any hesitation.