The growing number of children fleeing Tibet at a great risk, often sent by parents, is a clear indication of the desperation of Tibetans to reclaim their Tibetan identity.
The most recent statistics reveal that almost 500 children (below the age of 18) have already fled Tibet this year. Growing up as a minority group in Tibet, and educated within a Chinese school administration, Tibetan children are taught — often in Chinese — that Tibet has always constituted part of China. At the same time, Tibetan students in Tibet report having to pay attendance fees far higher than their Chinese classmates, often so exorbitant as to make it impossible for the predominately rural dwelling Tibetans to receive any schooling at all.
Ten year-old Tashi is from a village farming family in Pelbar County in Chamdo region (cast of Lhasa). Tashi has six members in his family: his mother, a younger brother aged seven, an older brother and sister, and a grandmother of more than 70 years who also lives with the family. His father left the family when Tashi was five years old.
When even survival became a question for the family, they had little choice but to leave their farm and migrate to Lhasa. Things were no better and Tashi says that sometimes his family members even begged for food. School for Tashi he recalls, was a subject not even worth discussing. His days were spent from morning to evening trying to find fuel for cooking. The alternative was begging.
As Tashi became older he says his mother became very worried for her son’s future. Yet the possibility of attending school remained a far-off dream for him. His mother therefore borrowed some money and paid a guide to take Tashi across the mountain pass out of Tibet.
Tashi describes the trek as very difficult. He was one of many small children in a total group of 45 people. The elder men in the group helped the small children and carried them on their backs.
Upon reaching the huge Tsangehu that he and the other monks must have been river in Ngari Region (western Tibet), the group was forced to stop. They were reluctant to swimm with the children on their backs, and therefore decided to follow the river until they reached a narrower crossing point.
This slowed down the group and dampened everybody’s spirit. The members of the group recalled that Tashi was especially affected. Suddenly he jumped in the river crying, “I have left my mother and I don’t think I will reach India. I don’t want to live anymore”. The group quickly pulled Tashi out of the water before he drowned. “Tashi is really a special child”, they said of this courage.
Today Tashi is admitted in at Tibetan school in India. He remembers his mother and relatives back home but he is happy that he is finally able to fulfill his mother’s wishes to receive an education and to serve the Tibetan community.