China expels teacher for pushing for students to use Tibetan language

Authorities interrogated him several times before suspending his teaching license.
By Pelbar for RFA Tibetan
China expels teacher for pushing for students to use Tibetan language Tibetan language teacher Dhonyoe (C, front) is seen with students at Meruma Central Primary School in Ngaba County in southwest China’s Sichuan province, in an undated photo.
Citizen journalist

A Tibetan language teacher in China’s Sichuan province was interrogated and expelled by authorities after pushing for greater use of the Tibetan language in schools — a measure that has been banned in education institutions, two sources inside Tibet told Radio Free Asia.

Dhonyoe, who goes by only one name, was expelled in early April from Meruma Central Primary School in Ngaba county’s Meruma township after he was interrogated several times by Chinese authorities, said the sources who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

His teaching license was also suspended, they said.

“Dhonyoe was accused of teaching his students beyond the national education system and was repeatedly questioned by authorities in mid-March,” said the first source.  

The Chinese government-run boarding school has about 500 Tibetan students, studying in kindergarten to the sixth grade, and about 60 teachers. The school previously taught Tibetan language and used Tibetan as a medium of instruction, the sources said. 

However, since 2018, with the movement of promoting uniformity in the use of textbooks and instructional materials, the Tibetan language has been replaced by Mandarin, which has been taught more intensively, they added. 

“Dhonyoe is a well-respected Tibetan teacher in the community,” said the second source. “He taught students the importance of the Tibetan language and Tibetan history, which is why he was expelled. Many students and their families were disappointed by his expulsion.”

Heart-warming video

A video obtained by RFA shows students running to the school gate to greet and embrace Dhonyoe after he returned from one of the interrogation sessions he was subjected to in March. 

Since 2020, the Chinese government has further tightened its restrictions on language rights in Tibetan, forcing the closure of private Tibetan schools in Tibet and banning Tibetan language teaching in various schools in Tibetan-populated areas, including in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture

Authorities have since intensified Chinese-language education in Tibetan schools in the name of promoting uniformity in the use of textbooks and instructional materials.

In 2021, authorities also began prohibiting Tibetan children from taking informal Tibetan language classes or workshops during their winter holidays, a move that local Tibetans and parents of affected children said would negatively impact the children’s connection to their native language. 

Earlier this year, in January, the Chinese Education Department issued a notice repeating this ban and ordering local authorities to intensify their supervision and investigation of supplementary lessons for Tibetan children and carry out strict disciplinary action against those violating the rule. 

Translated by Dolma Lhamo and edited by Tenzin Pema for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.


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