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Obituary: Wangdu Phuntsok Gonsar - A Champion of Tibetan Children's Education in Exile

September 15, 2010

by Namgyal Higher Secondary School
Phayul
September 13, 2010

Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok Gonsar (1954-2010): Over the
past decade, amid all the political and social
instability in Nepal that has greatly affected
the lives of the Tibetan community across the
region; one shining light that has beamed with
success is the outstanding achievements of
Namgyal Higher Secondary School (NHSS). On August
5th, last month, Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok Gonsar, the
Director of NHSS for the past 17 years and the
person singularly responsible for steering and
guiding this Tibetan school from a tentative
beginning to a top ranking high school across the
nation, unexpectedly passed away. His demise has
left an irreplaceable void not only in the hearts
and minds of hundreds of our student body,
present and past, but also in the Tibetan
community and Himalayan region at large.

Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok embodied dedication, vision
and social service in the true sense of the word.
He has nurtured and guided hundreds of Tibetan
children and the children of the Himalayan
regions of Nepal. He has left behind a legacy of
contribution not only in the service of Tibetan
children, but also a model of exemplary
co-existence with local population through
numerous project initiatives aimed for the social
upliftment and benefit of local population. As we
mourn the passing of our beloved Director, we
would like to share with the general Tibetan
community a glimpse of his life dedicated towards serving Tibetan community.

Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok Gonsar was born in Gyanor,
Shelkar (Western Tibet) on February 24, 1954.
After coming into exile in India, he was among a
few selected Tibetans who were given a
scholarship to attend Branleigh Towers Cambridge
Academy, a private English medium school and was
later transferred to Sherwood College in Nanital,
India. He graduated from Sherwood College in
December 1973. In 1977 he completed a special
six-month training program for effective
political management. That same year, he began
his life long career of serving the plight of the
education of Tibetan refugee children. During
this time, Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok received his
Bachelor of Arts degree (in 1978) and
subsequently a Master of Arts in 1996 through
correspondence from Delhi University’s School of
Correspondence Courses and Continuing Education.

 From 1977 until 1989 he worked at the SOS
Tibetan Homes Foundation, Mussoorie- India,
initially as SOS Project Coordinator, and was
later promoted to Assistant Director. During his
service in Mussoorie, Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok was
also an executive member of regional Tibetan
Youth Congress (TYC) for two consecutive terms
between 1980-1982 and 1982-1985. In 1989, he was
transferred to the Department of Education of the
Central Tibetan Administration, where he served
as the Educational Project Officer until 1993. In
1992, when the exile Tibetan Government drafted
the first long-term plan on administration, Mr.
Wangdu Phuntsok la was involved in the overall
responsibility of the Planning Commission, for
which he was awarded a certificate of merit for his exemplary service.

In 1993, Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok was deputed as the
Director of Namgyal High School. During that
time, none of the Tibetans schools in Nepal
offered a 10+2 (higher secondary education)
system. Two years later in 1995, under his
leadership, Namgyal High School was upgraded to
10+2, thereby becoming the first and remains till
date, the only Tibetan school in Nepal to be
affiliated with the Nepal Higher Secondary
Education Board. Thereafter, the school became
known as Namgyal Higher Secondary School. As a
result, hundreds of students have successfully
graduated after sitting for the Nepal class 12
Board examinations. Since Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok la
viewed education as a lifelong process, he made
certain to provide support and to nourish the
students’ development beyond their education at
Namgyal Higher Secondary School. As such, over
the years he has worked tirelessly, and has
successfully secured college and vocational
scholarships for virtually all students that have
graduated from Namgyal Higher Secondary School.
Under his leadership, students from NHSS have
gone on to become successful professionals in an
array of fields, including, business, medicine
and healthcare, teaching, administration and law.

Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok’s work extended well beyond
the confines of NHSS. Over the years, he has also
made efforts to support the less fortunate
Nepalese people from the surrounding villages.
Among his many projects for local Nepalese, he
secured fundings for a local youth gymnasium, a
tailoring class for unemployed women, tree
plantation, recycling programs and provided
clothing, food and medical assistance for
disadvantaged children and, old and disabled
persons. Moreover, Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok also made
several trips to Solukhumbu and Manang (remote
mountainous regions in Nepal) to provide teacher
training workshops and guidance counseling
sessions for students in the Himalayan region.

Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok is also a recipient of
numerous awards and certificates in recognition
of his many years of dedicated service in the
field of education. In 2004, during the
celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s
birthday on July 6th, Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok was
felicitated with an award from the Department of
Education in completetion of his 25 years of
service. In 2006, Yarlung United Club, Kathmandu,
Nepal, held a special awards reception during
which Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok was recognized for his
outstanding and selfless contribution in the
field of education for the Tibetan community in
exile. On July 12th 2009, Mr. Jhalanath Khanal,
President of the ruling party of Nepal CPN-UML
presented Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok with an award for
the outstanding school academic achievement. Once
again during the 2010 His Holiness the Dalai
Lama’s birthday celebration, less than a month
prior to his demise, the Tibetan Refugee
community office in Kathmandu presented Mr.
Wangdu Phuntsok with a scarf and a certificate
for his contribution to the welfare and education of Tibetan children.

Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok has also received numerous
awards and certificates and letters of
appreciation from individuals, organizations and
governmental bodies, including the Private Office
of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, various
departments of the Central Tibetan
Administration, Mr. Helmut Kutin - President
SOS-Kinderdorf International, SOS Nepal, Snow
Lion Foundation, Higher Secondary Education
Board- Nepal, District Education Office-
Department of Education (Govt. of Nepal) and many others.

Since 2004, under the leadership of Mr. Wangdu
Phuntsok, Namgyal Higher Secondary School has
consistently ranked among the top ten schools in
Nepal. A landmark accomplishment in Tibetan
education in exile was reached when Namgyal
Higher Secondary School ranked the number one
school from the 1,018 higher secondary schools in
Nepal. The survey was conducted and published by
Kantipur Publications (Nepal National Weekly
magazine- July 3rd, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 46). The
results were based on Nepal board examination
results, school administration and overall school
facilities. Once again in 2008, Namgyal Higher
Secondary School was ranked the number one school
in Nepal by Samaya (Times magazine, July 3rd,
2008 issue). This was a huge milestone for
Tibetan education in exile, especially given that
the Snow Lion Foundation sets forth the admission
procedure for Namgyal Higher Secondary School,
where there are no entrance exams and students
are automatically enrolled directly from feeder schools.

On August 5th, 2010, Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok passed
away unexpectedly and his untimely death shocked
and saddened the entire Tibetan community.
Thousands of students, present and past, parents’
of students, principals and teachers from various
schools in Nepal, local Nepalese community
leaders, Nepalese police and military officials,
Tibetan community leaders in Nepal, SOS Nepal
National Director, the President of Human Rights
Organization of Nepal, many other heads of NGO’s,
family and friends came to pay their respect and
homage. While Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok left us all too
soon, he led an exceptionally meaningful life,
one that we all remain inspired by. Throughout
his life, he has contributed to our society in
many different ways, but his greatest legacy
remains that he has single handedly paved the way
for hundreds of young Tibetans and secured them a
future they otherwise could only hope for.

We bemoan the passing away of one of the foremost
champions of Tibetan education in exile. However,
at the same time we remain grateful for his
unwavering dedication and lifelong service
towards the Tibetan and Himalayan community at
large. Mr. Wangdu Phuntsok is survived by his
wife, Chemi Dolkar Gonsar, sons Tenzin Sonam
Gonsar and Palden Dorji Gonsar, and daughter Ngawang Youdon Gonsar.
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