Baingoin, Xizang (Tibet), China – Nestled in the remote and breathtakingly high mountains of Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region, the Sinopec Primary School of Baingoin has earned a well-deserved moniker – “the school closest to the sky.” This extraordinary educational institution, a testament to human resilience and commitment, sits perched at a staggering altitude of 4,700 meters above sea level. It is a beacon of hope, providing the invaluable gift of education to the children of the pastoral region.
A Gift of Education in the Himalayan Heights
Established as an aiding project by China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group) in 2009, the construction of this remarkable school in Baingoin County was officially completed and opened to students in 2012. The impact was profound, igniting the enthusiasm of local pastoral families to send their children to school and contributing to the overall development of education in this region.
The initial design of the school was intended to accommodate around 800 students, operating with a semi-boarding model. The choice of this model was driven by the challenging circumstances these children face, with parents often preoccupied with demanding pastoral work, making it essential to ensure their safety and daily well-being.
Ngawang Wangdu, the principal of Sinopec Primary School, explained, “Because the students come from remote areas and their parents are often occupied with work, ensuring their safety and daily habits is essential.”
However, with overwhelming demand for quality education, the school successfully applied for a second phase of expansion. Both the government and Sinopec headquarters supported this endeavor, allowing the school to accommodate a total of 1,323 students, with 600 of them residing on the school premises.
“The school operates throughout the entire year, regardless of summer or winter vacations, leading to students spending an extended time at the school,” Principal Wangdu noted.
A Day in the Life at “the School Closest to the Sky”
A typical day at Sinopec Primary School begins with the laughter and enthusiasm of young students. During a recent visit by a Global Times reporter, scenes of boys and girls chasing basketballs around the playground filled the air. Inside the modern classrooms, students engaged in a range of subjects, from traditional Tibetan Guozhuang dance to learning the Chinese character for “answer.”
The school’s commitment to providing holistic education is evident in its facilities, which include a standard playground, nearly 30 modern classrooms, and dormitory buildings featuring glass greenhouses for students. The primary teaching building, constructed in the Tibetan architectural style, resembles a Tibetan palace, adding a touch of cultural significance to the institution.
While the students thrive academically, they also enjoy nutritious meals in the school cafeteria. As one student, Padma Gyaltsen, shared, “I find the conditions here to be exceptional. The meals in the cafeteria are delicious, and the teachers help you solve any difficulties in life.”
Padma Gyaltsen’s journey to the school is a testament to the growing importance of education in pastoral communities. Hailing from a pastoral ranch that takes two hours to reach by car from the county, he was brought to the county town at an early age to attend kindergarten and primary school. His story, like that of many of his peers, showcases the dedication of families to secure a brighter future for their children.
“I feel like all the boys and girls in my class are my friends, and my classmates are like my brothers and sisters,” Padma Gyaltsen expressed, emphasizing his desire to become a special police officer, similar to his uncle.
Supporting Dreams at High Altitudes
The success of the Sinopec Primary School in Baingoin County can be attributed to the various forms of support it receives. National special policies, Xizang special education policies, and assistance from the China Petrochemical Corporation have been directed toward enhancing hardware facilities, equipment, and overall software improvement.
The school places a strong emphasis on student living conditions and safety management, ensuring that students from economically disadvantaged families also have the opportunity to access quality education. Thanks to these favorable policies and the school’s unwavering efforts, there have been no dropouts.
After graduation, all students have a 100 percent placement rate in higher education, and the most outstanding students may even have the opportunity to be enrolled in schools in more developed regions of China, such as Lhasa or Beijing.
A French Engineer’s Perspective
Guillaume Guibe, a French engineer working for Sinopec in Beijing, visited the school in 2022 and shared his experience. His initial expectations of children studying in tents were pleasantly shattered by the school’s remarkable conditions. He was even able to converse with a student in English, highlighting the quality of education provided in this high-altitude haven.
“For the Xizang region, the third pole of our planet, miracles of nature stand everywhere, and the people here are also creating miracles,” Guibe mentioned in his vlog. The Sinopec Primary School of Baingoin exemplifies one such human-made miracle, standing as a testament to the unwavering commitment to providing education in the most challenging of environments.
The school closest to the sky continues to serve as a beacon of hope for the children of the Himalayan heights, offering them a chance to dream and reach for the stars in one of the world’s most remarkable settings.