APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Pentok believes that education is the foundation for everything, but poverty hinders girls from attending schools, causes them to drop out and by doing so, they are eventually denied opportunities. The Pentok Institute works closely with a herding community of 4,000 Tibetan nomads to provide education opportunities by donating tuition fees for girls, building community economic resources, and training young women to be socially responsible leaders in their communities.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
Over the next three years, Pentok will initiate entrepreneurial programs that are currently appropriate to Tibetan nomads in Mukbo, including programs that involve Yak-loans, greenhouses, motorcycle repair shops, and Tibetan traditional handicrafts. These programs will generate funds for the village economy, and in return, each program will reserve 10% of the profits to nomadic girls' education. Of these programs, yak-loans and motorcycle repair shops already exist in the Pentok.
Motorcycle Repair Shops
Limited transportation routes, poor roads, and the high cost of cars in China make motorcycles and mopeds the primary mode of transportation in rural areas such as Mukbo. Villagers rely on motorcycles to take their children to school in neighboring areas, to buy food and clothing, and to receive medical care. In Mukbo, motorcycles number approximately one per household. When a motorcycle breaks down, which happens frequently because of poor roads, a truck must be hired to transport the motorcycle to a neighboring county repair shop, often located over 100 kilometers away. Pentok has already initiated a shop in Mukbo village and plans to replicate to other herding communities in the near future.
Yak Loan Program
Pentok's Yak Loan Program provides impoverished households with a five-year loan of milking yaks to foster self-sustainability. In general, nomads in Smug Po Village are poor and have not been able to break out poverty. The herders also don't want to migrate to towns and cities. Given that the villagers' income sources are livestock, especially yaks, after serious discussions with the villagers, Pentok Institute plans to provide 60 milking yaks as loans not as gifts to the poorest six families in the village. Pentok plans to apply this model to other herding communities if it succeeds.
Cold long winters and high altitudes make traditional agriculture very challenging in Mukbo. Instead, villagers rely on herding yak and sheep, and their diet consists of tsompa, meat, cheese, butter, and similar animal products. Purchasing other food items from the county town is slow and expensive, so it is only done once per year. This means that most Mukbo residents have no access to vegetables.
Introducing a greenhouse into the community will give villagers a healthier and more diverse diet. In the long term, this will help mitigate the effects of poverty and malnutrition. In similar projects done by other organizations, crops in greenhouses have grown up to five times faster than those that have been planted outside and have had a growing season of up to eight months.
Through the Greenhouse Program, Pentok plans to train two single mothers to plant vegetables in the greenhouse, sell the vegetables in the community, and create local market demand. If it succeeds, Pentok plans to replicate the project to other herding communities.
Tibetan Traditional Handicrafts
With this program, Pentok will set up shops in the county town and train three to five female nomads to make traditional handicrafts and sell them. The profit goes to their salaries and girls education program.
Overall, this commitment is expected to set up a model vibrant community in Smug Po and then apply the idea to other similar communities, eventually reaching 10,000 nomads, and 1,000 young girls. By tying together the loose ends between educational achievement and entrepreneurial success, Pentok aims to provide both economic opportunities and incentives for female education.
Education, especially female education, has little value to Tibetan nomadic communities in Qinghai, Western China. Educational achievement for women does not currently translate into socio-economic improvements for their families. Pentok aims to change this by developing novel projects that create direct links between achievement and socio-economic status.
Education is a daunting challenge for young nomadic women on the Tibet Plateau. Reasons for this vary. Modern education for Tibetans is a rather new concept. Before 1959, education was completed in monasteries. This monastic education is still popular in many Tibetan communities across the Tibet Plateau. Therefore, women's education levels are far behind those of men. Furthermore, opening and staffing schools in remote areas is often hugely problematic for the local government, even though the Chinese government states that not sending children to school is illegal. The problem lies in household incentives for education. Because of the demanding housework, Tibetan parents are reluctant to send children to school for a modern education. Instead children, and especially girls, are asked to herd, fetch water, and farm. So far, few Tibetan women have completed a university-level education.
Education has not traditionally been seen as an effective way to tackle issues like poverty, health, and malnutrition. More than 70% of Tibetans living in Qinghai are illiterate. Of the few who attend school, around 50% drop out at the junior middle school or high school levels. Those that leave school face tremendous challenges because their schooling neither prepared them for city jobs nor for daily life in the countryside. Thus, these young people return home to find themselves belonging nowhere. In rural nomadic communities, the local economy is extremely fragile and offers limited opportunities. In most nomadic communities, 70% of a households' income is derived from digging a local plant called caterpillar fungus. The price of this fungus fluctuates tremendously and local Tibetans have little knowledge of the market and pricing mechanisms. For example in 2008, most Tibetans earned no annual income at all due to dramatic low price of caterpillar fungus and this left many families in poverty.
Women, especially those who undertook some years of schooling, suffer the most. Because they are not fit for either city or rural life, they go to nearby cities and towns looking for short-term construction work, like working at a construction site and barely earning enough to survive. Few families have seen the values in education, causing parents to refuse to send their children, especially girls, for education. Those few Tibetan women who manage to go to college end up with limited job prospects and few career opportunities. This investment in education can often lead the family into further impoverishment. Those lucky enough to get jobs after their graduation end up in conventional careers. Most women are fulfilling traditional female roles on farms and grasslands. Education has rarely provided the economic return that families hope for, therefore, few Tibetans living in China place their hopes in education.