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, he 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.
His 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.
He 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 he 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 him 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 him with a scarf and a certificate for his contribution to the welfare and education of Tibetan children.
He 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.
By Namgyal Higher Secondary School