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Topkhana, 10th mile Kalimpong, Dist Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
Impressed by the high standard of education in the schools in Kalimpong and Darjeeling, the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was however dismayed by the lack of emphasis on the traditions, value, and culture of the Himalayan people, and the lack of good educational opportunities for children of lower castes and from impoverished families. He wished to establish a School for needy Himalayan children of all castes and creeds.
And so it came to be. The Sandutshang family of Third Jamgon Rinpoche donated land and property for the establishment of a school to fulfill his vision after his parinirvana (after his passing). The large warehouse was converted into a school and on May 10, 1997, the Jamgon Kongtrul IIIrd Memorial School opened Lower Kindergarten for 30 needy children. There were 2 teachers. It began free of charge but with experience it became clear that parents commited to their children’s education more seriously if they contributed nominally. Parents are now required to pay for the uniforms. There is a program of daily milk and cookies for the children.
Today the classes in the school range from Lower Kindergarten to Class 8. There are 300 children, 14 teachers and 4 teaching assistants. The school building has been fully converted with an assembly hall, an office, a staff room, 12 classrooms, 2 science laboratories, a computer room and a library. There is also a small field and a playground.
What was initially viewed as a school for the lower castes, Jamgon Kongtrul IIIrd Memorial School now attracts children from higher caste families as well because of its academic standards. The vision of bridging the divide of castes and communities is being realized.