Chinese authorities ban outside-school classes for Tibetan children

The move threatens Tibetan children's connection to their native language, often taught outside the schools.
By Sangyal Kunchok
Chinese authorities ban outside-school classes for Tibetan children A group of Tibetan children sit outside their school in Tibet's regional capital Lhasa in a file photo.

Authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province are blocking Tibetan children from taking classes outside their schools over winter holidays in a move aimed at further weakening their connection to their native language, Tibetan sources say.

News of the ban was sent out in October in a notice to all districts and cities in the province, historically a part of northeastern Tibet’s region of Amdo, a Tibetan living in the province told RFA in a written message.

“No individual or organization is allowed to hold informal classes or workshops to teach the Tibetan language during the winter holidays when the schools are closed,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Teachers across the province have already been summoned to meetings held to inform them of the ban, the source said, adding that anyone caught violating the government’s order will face “serious legal consequences and punishment.”

“This is an attempt to wipe out the Tibetan language,” the source said.

“Subjects like math and science are already being taught in Chinese in all the elementary schools, and except for formal classes in the Tibetan language itself, all other subjects will gradually be taught in Chinese too,” he said.

Though informal classes and workshops held to teach Tibetan have been helpful to Tibetan students in the past, “all these facilities and opportunities have now been officially banned from this year forward, which is a huge concern,” the source said.

“The government ban on these informal Tibetan language classes violates the basic rights of Tibetans,” said a researcher named Nyiwoe at the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, speaking to RFA.

“Bans like this are aimed at eventually wiping out [the languages and culture] of all ethnic minorities in the country,” Nyiwoe said.

Chinese authorities in Qinghai have already banned monasteries from teaching language classes to young Tibetans during their holidays from school, and authorities in Qinghai and in neighboring Sichuan have also closed down Tibetan private schools offering instruction in Tibetan, sources say.

The move has forced students to go instead to government-run schools where they will be taught entirely in Chinese.

Parents of the affected children and other local Tibetans have expressed concern over the imposed requirements, saying that keeping young Tibetans away from their culture and language will have severe negative consequences in the future.

Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses in monasteries and towns across Tibet deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention and arrest, sources say.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA's Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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