Student protests at marginalisation of Tibetan language spread to Beijing - solidarity texts sweep across the country
Protests which began on Tuesday (21 October) (1) in Rebkong County have spread to Beijing. Approximately 400 Tibetan University students studying at Minzu University (formerly known as the Central University for Nationalities) staged a protest at noon echoing the demands of the earlier protests.
News of the protests are spreading across Tibet via SMS. The text reads:
Yesterday, the Ministry of Education decided that Tibetan language centred education system should be cancelled in all the schools in Tibetan areas. After primary school Tibetan is only an optional subject. Tibetan students are protesting for their mother- tongue in the Tibetan areas in Qinghai and others.
For the sake of saving the Tibetan mother- tongue, please pass the message to each other. [sic]
These protests, the largest since 2008, underline how important the Tibetan language is to the Tibetan people – this isn’t just about culture. This is a struggle against oppression which affects the everyday lives of Tibetans.
With classes being taught in Mandarin, many Tibetan children are struggling to keep up and are dropping out of school. Literacy levels in the Tibetan Autonomous Region are already less than half than in the People’s Republic of China (2).
Notes to Editor
Literacy levels in the Tibetan Autonomous Region compare poorly with the average literacy rate across the People’s Republic of China with only 44% literacy in the Tibetan Autonomous Region against 93% literacy in the People’s Republic of China, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2009