Another day in Bhutan for the CMC Sustainability group. We were fortunate to visit the amazing Choki Traditional Art School (CTAS) which was established in 1999, commemorating the silver jubilee coronation celebration of His Majesty the Fourth King.
The school was founded by Thrimdep Choki Dorji, who was approached after retiring from the Civil Service, by a few children who were interested to learn of the arts but could not get admission in the National Painting School, due to qualification requirement. His interest to keep alive the zorig chusum (13 Arts and Crafts) inspired him to teach these children at his house. These students came from humble families and faraway places so he provided free food and lodging.
The news spread and many parents started taking their children to him. Thus, the idea to establish a small school and provide learning opportunities for the economically and disadvantaged children was conceived.
During their first two years, students study traditional rimo drawing, the foundation for future study of more complex crafts. Other practices taught include thanka (scroll) painting, patra (carving), thag-zo (weaving), and tshem-zo (embroidery).
With support from donors, today the school houses 169 students (121 boys and 48 girls). The school has boarding facilities for boys and girls, classrooms, kitchen, basketball, volleyball, vegetable garden and space for learning other co-curricular activities such as IT, English, Math and communication skills.
The education is provided free of cost, targeting students who are interested in learning arts & crafts who come from financially disadvantaged families.
The school aims to make its students employable and uphold promotion of traditional arts and crafts as symbol of Bhutanese identity and values.
The following is a transcript of one of the principal signs as you enter the school:
“Valuing the contribution of the environment to Gross National Happiness, Bhutan’s development philosophy, Choki Traditional Art School strives to become an environmental steward and promote those conditions of securing ecologically balanced sustainable development.
“CTAS cares for the world, the country and wants to make a difference. Although there are a ton of ways to Go Green, we at CTAS have opted the following few to start with:
- Promote culture of conservation.
- Plant a tree.
- Ingrain in the curriculum as part of creativity learning to use waste materials for patch-work products.
- Grow organic vegetables for school consumption.
- Generate less waste.
- Change light bulbs to a fluorescent light.
- Turn off lights when not in use.
- Fix leaky faucets.
- Preparation and use of natural dye for weaving.
- Preparation and use of natural plants and vegetables for paint.
- Reduce use of paper. Print on both sides of the paper.
- Judicious use of water consumption.
- Keep the campus safe and clean.
- Inculcate habit to dispose waste properly.”
The approach taken by the school in stating these sustainable objectives is very in tune with the environmental pillar of Gross National Happiness.
Perhaps if all schools and offices everywhere, not just in Bhutan, attempted to have a similar philosophy for their spaces, students and workers, we would make huge strides towards more sustainable economies in the world.