By: Jemima sherpa
A bit of a history lesson on the Thame School, and its extensive damage following the earthquake:
The original schoolhouse actually stood in a different location in the upper Thame village, and was constructed by Sir Edmund Hillary and his team during the Himalayan Schoolhouse Expedition in 1963.
Up until now the Himalayan Trust Nepal has been administering assistance for the Thame School, particularly for Sherpa community teacher salaries, which are supported by a variety of organisations including the Apa Sherpa Foundation, The American Himalayan Foundation, and the New Zealand chapter of the Himalayan Trust.
Sir Ed's memoirs about the expedition includes a letter, dated 27 October 1962, signed by four leaders of our Sherpa community - Chewang Rimpi; Thak Noori (who was Tenzing and current schoolteacher Kami Doma Sherpa's grandfather, my great-uncle, Yangji and Kami Yangjee's great-grandfather); Kinken Kung; and Khunjo Chumbi ( Tenzing David and Dawa Steven's grandfather). It appeals to him with the following (most likely originally in Nepali or Sambota) :
"We the local people, the Sherpas of Thami, Khumbu, came to know that your honour, helping us in all respects, is going to open some more schools in Khumbu. So we the Thami people are requesting your honour to open a school at Thami just like Khumjung. Though our children have eyes but still they are blind. So all we Sherpas of Thami are praying your honour to make our children just like those in Khumjung. We hope your honour may consider our prayer."
The original school building stood in upper Thame (Thame Teng) and was painted a bright cheerful red with the eight good-luck symbols of Buddhism on it. My father Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa and our community doctor Kami Temba were both students there before going on to study at Khumjung and then Kathmandu and beyond. My dad also taught there briefly.
Unfortunately, that first school building was destroyed in a rockslide, and the school was moved to lower Thame.
In a quirk of history, a newer community building - the Khumbu Mountain Centre (built with the support of the local Buffer Zone which was under the leadership of then-Chair Sonam Gyalzen; The Mountain Institute and EcoHimal including au Phinjo)is still standing and usable in the same place where the old school once stood. Until the Thame School can be rebuilt, it is most likely one of the buildings there will provide shelter to hold classes and make sure the students' education faces as little disruption as possible.
In the long-term, reconstruction of Thame School will be necessary, but it will need to be a well-planned and locally-appropriate construction process. I'm looking forward to working with the Thame Sherpa Heritage Fund (http://www.thamesherpafund.org/) to make this planning process as consultative and locally participatory as possible.
This school's history has been an example of Buddhist lessons on impermanence: buildings, institutions, and people come and go, but the good intentions, relationships, and actions carry on. This is a time to be grateful for all the work and love that has gone into education in Thame, and collaborate to channel the same dedication and faith in education and knowledge for the next generation.