Dec. 21, 2005 by Phoenix TV
Translated by http://www.aniu.org/
Aniu, 44 years old, is the headmaster of Welfare Tibetan School in Dechen County, Yunnan Province, who founded this private free Tibetan school and raised nearly 1 million RMB Yuan in eight years, thus benefited about 140 children. Currently there are 53 students in the school during 7 to 18 years old, who call him “Akar Aniu” in Tibetan which means Uncle Aniu.
At the foot of Meili Mountain, there is a Tibetan village of over 10 families with the name Wu Nong Ding Village. As its name indicating, the village is always encircled with thick fog in the mountain. We perhaps can’t imagine there is such a village in the long gorge without hearing melodious song therein. The song is from a native peasant Aniu. Surprisingly illiterate Aniu is the only one who can sing the Epic of King Gesar in the village. More surprisingly the singer Aniu founded a totally free Tibetan school in 1997. As to Aniu and his school, there are lots of rumors in the village: Some think him clever, capable, virtuous and devotional while others regard as ramstam, emotional and vagarious. So, what kind of person is Aniu?
Meili Mountain, located in Dechen County, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Diqing, Yunnan Province, is the Holy Mountain in Tibetan. Wu Nong Ding Village is at its foot. Thirty years ago, the Mount is the same but the village is not as that of today.
Aniu said: I was the biggest child at home. Since my family was very poor, I had to drop out in Grade One and pastured lamb. At work the village head arranged me to collect manure which required record. But I even can’t write persons’ name and recorded numbers instead. Once I misrecorded the number, they scolded me and I realized being literate is the most important.
Due to poor transportation conditions, the village was very impoverished till 1970s. Aniu joined the collective labor in the production team after his short school life. He gradually realized the importance of knowledge but unfortunately he missed the school year forever. In the early of 1980s, Aniu learned to drive and had more chance to the outside world. When he got out of the moutain, unexpectedly the outside world was so strange to him.
Dechen County is located in a valley among huge mountains in northwest Yunnan, where citizens rarely communicated with outside before. Aniu doesn’t know Chinese and even doesn’t understand Tibetan other than Dechen dialect, thus intercommunion was always a problem for him. Occasionally Aniu was stimulated to found a Tibetan school.
Aniu: Once when I was burning joss sticks with two monks in our village, I mentioned it was nice if there was a school in Dechen. One of the monks promised to borrow a room from the lamasery for the school. Therefore I thought, I could found a school by hiring a teacher and recruiting tens of students with one thousand RMB Yuan per month of my working salary.
The idea of founding a school by working salary was soon suspected by villagers and opposed by the family. It was regarded as a drollery that supporting a school with only one thousand Yuan. Aniu deferred his mother’s persuasion and moved into the old room borrowed from the lamasery. Thus he began to prepare for his Tibetan school. Lamas told Aniu that six hundred Yuan couldn’t afford best teacher in the county. They also told him there was an old man in his sixty who knew a little Tibetan in Yunling village. Aniu then walk there for over 50 Km by foot.
With schoolroom and teacher, Aniu was not afraid of short of students. Three students were registered in the opening day. He notified the teacher but was refused with an unexpected excuse, “I can’t teach only three students.”
Aniu: I said, “In my school I will pay you regardless the number of students is 3 or 1.”
Without textbook and desk, Aniu launched his school in the corner of the lamasery with one teacher and three students. To certain extent, Aniu’s school was not a qualified school since the local educational administration only certified the school as the class for elimination of illiteracy then. However, Aniu found hope from such a class. Although the school opened and rang regularly every day, few believed such a private school could last long.
The singer Aniu, who can sing Tibetan’s Epic of King Gesar, surprised everyone once again from the litte village at the foot of Meili Mountain. Such an illiterate founded a class with one teacher and three students to eliminate the illiteracy! Singing was illiterate Aniu’s only expression way. His happiness and misery were confided to the holy mountain and river with the traditional and profound melody. However, Aniu didn’t hope the children were as illiterate as him, he hoped they could learn to read and write, to observe the outside world and express themselves with more ways.
In the beginning the school charged 30 jin rice for each student and Aniu afforded vegetable and meat and others. Even though in the first semester there were few student could afford the rice. After followup visit to students’ families, Aniu exempted rice for poorer students. Therefore Aniu had to carry heavier and heavier financial burden. It was far from Aniu’s expectation that the school would payout one or two hundred per day for feeding more than twenty students and salary of two staffs. In the winter that year, Aniu had to sell his family properties after all his saving is used up.
Why did Aniu found the school? His reason was very simple: he didn’t expect students couldn’t read with eyes and couldn’t understand with ears like him. And why was Aniu’s school free? It was simple again: his students were poor. Aniu was an extremely simple person with his heart which is as straightforward as the plain stretching into the horizon, and also as purified as the crystal sunlight above the snow plateau. In others’ point of view, Aniu was obstinately running in a mission impossible; whereas Aniu didn’t think so, instead he felt everything perfectly justified.
In the beginning of new semester, the school had 57 students. Before the opening of the semester, Aniu bought over 100 Tibetan textbooks from Tibet SAR. However Aniu felt more unsettled with increasing debt in his name. Till 1998 Aniu became one of the biggest debtors in Dechen.
Aniu: I paid cash for meat and owed for others. I had to do so otherwise students ate nothing. If I owed one store too many to owe more, I tried to owe another.
In the most difficult period, Aniu resorted to the bank. But the bank refused his loan request.
Aniu: The teachers also told me, “you had to raise money or die; you had to beg from the enterprisers and the companies.”
Begging was never a conception in Aniu’s brain before. But the school was in such an awkward situation waiting urgent help, which made Aniu insomnia. Aniu started learning to seek sponsorship. Upon any uncertain messages, Aniu would rush out around local government offices, enterprisers and companies. However his work was not effective, since many didn’t understand his cause well.
More attentions were attracted to Aniu and his Welfare Tibetan School after reported by various media. In 2003, after Dechen Temple’s move, the school bought and reconstructed two old timberwork houses with the support from all circles. The school had classrooms, increased teachers and opened Chinese and Tibetan bi-lingual class. Aniu always felt grateful for support of donors.
Aniu: The donated money didn’t generate benefit; the money to our school had no return. The donors are all good person with good mind.
Aniu knew the difficulty of donors and also knew every cent of the money was not easy for them. What’s more, he thought it was not a long-term plan to support the school with donations only. In 2004, with help of local government, Aniu opened up 20 mu wasteland at the mountainous field several kilometers away from school and planted herbs and vegetables, in hope that it could save the school incase of urgency. Compared with financial improvement, Aniu regarded children’s progress in study as more important. In 2004 and 2005, with help of kind persons, 16 students upgraded to the Tibetan School of Diqing Perfecture and the Tibetan School of Sichuan Province. Aniu cared about every student once studied in his school with no exception, so as those upgraded ones. In his heart, the school, the students and he are the united integrity.
After the interview was finished, Aniu guided us to the mount in the backside of the school to shooting the snow peak. With altitude of over 3,800 meters, our colleagues were wheezing. Aniu insisted to climb higher, since in such angel he thought the Mount Kagebo and the school could be in the same picture. Although the school, which is located in the ravine at the foot of the snow mountain, appears so small and unattractive, it is overly important in Aniu’s heart. In the picture, the small school seems being blessed virtually by the Holy Mount. Standing in the snow mount, Aniu told us he had a big dream to kora (Tibetan language, to clockwise circumambulation of the holy mount) and pilgrimage the Holy Mount Kagebo. Maybe Aniu’s simplicity and courage are stemmed from the snow mountain and the sky. The crystal purity in his heart makes the snow mountain more holy in front of us.