HYDERABAD: Engineer. Innovator. Reformer. Pioneer. Motivational Speaker. Pragmatist. Down to earth. Sonam Wangchuk is all these, and more. He was speaking at the 77th Indian Public School Conference (IPSC) Principals’ Conclave held at Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet on Tuesday.
Sonam Wangchuk is the Founding Director of Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), based in Ladakh. Founded in 1988, this alternative school enrolls those who failed in the traditional schooling system. Textbooks were re-edited and teachers were trained afresh. As a result of the practical learning techniques, the matriculation pass percentage rose dramatically from a mere 5 percent in 1996 to 75 percent in 2015. The school has over 7,200 students, including alumni.The campus uses solar energy for all its needs including heating, cooking and other purposes.
When toddlers can learn a language in a couple of months, why do adults need a few years? The reason is simple - toddlers use their inborn and intuitive skills, while we have gotten lazy and have everything served on a platter, said Sonam Wangchuk. “I went to school at the age of 8.5 years. Till then, I learnt from my mother. The toughest time was when I joined school”, he added.
He opines that today’s teenagers need to channel their energies in a productive manner. Man is not superior to animal, he says, adding that in today’s industrialised economies, lifestyle diseases have risen dramatically.
When asked about the similarity between him and the ‘Phunsukh Wangdu’ character essayed by Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots, Sonam says he met and chatted with Aamir Khan in 2008, a few months before the film’s shooting began, at Real Heroes, a CNN-IBN event, which honoured Sonam. That’s about it, he says.
Sonam had recently won the $150,000 Rolex Award for Enterprise, 2016 for Ice Stupa Artificial Glacier from among 2,322 applicants across 144 nationalities. He said he plans to use the amount as seed money towards the establishment of Himalayan Institute of Alternatives (HIAL), a self-sustaining university in Ladakh.
The proposed university is slated to be 100 percent accessible to pedestrians and boasts of complete self-sufficiency in its food, water and energy requirements. Funds are being raised through the crowdfunding platform ‘Milaap’. To contribute, visit www.milaap.org/fundraisers/hial
Ice Stupa project, initiated by His Holiness Drikung Skyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche and executed in partnership with SECMOL, freezes glacial meltwater into towering conical mounds resembling Buddhist stupas. These ice stupas behave like mini-glaciers, slowly releasing water for irrigating lands. Water would be brought via pipes from streams at high altitudes. Then, in the sub-zero temperatures, as water spurts out of the pipe, it freezes, forming a cone.
This helps in solving the acute water crisis faced by villages in Ladakh, apart from mitigating the dangers of glacial lake outburst flood, said Sonam, and spoke animatedly about using ice stupas as a winter attraction for tourists.
Switzerland comes calling
Ice stupa has garnered interest from the Playground of Europe, Switzerland. He has been invited by the officials of Pontresina, a municipality near the winter sports resort town of St. Moritz, to build ice stupas for tourism purpose.
Follow your dream and believe in yourself, says Sonam Wangchuk, before signing off.