Sonam Wangchuk, is an innovator and educationist from one of the most breathtaking places on Earth, Ladakh. Wangchuk is a rare example of grit and determination who fought against all odds to make quality education available to the young guns in the valley and contributed a lot to the locals with his innovations in agriculture.
He was recently awarded with the Rolex award for enterprise 2016 for his work on Ice Stupa Artificial glacier project in Ladakh. He explains that the water is drawn from the nearby streams and made to come out from a man made fountain. The sub zero temperatures from the surrounding freeze the water and artificial glaciers get formed. These glaciers become the source of water during the summer seasons which is used for irrigation and planting trees.
He plans to use the money from Rolex award to build an alternate university in Ladakh. The institute is named as the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives which he says this will involve young students from various regions in the Himalayan region.
Wangchuk plans to solve issues faced by people like education, culture and environment through this university. “We plan to break down conventional way of thought process and make people understand the practical application of knowledge.”
Sonam Wangchuk, for those unfamiliar, is the real life inspiration of the character of “Phunsuk Wangdu” in the Bollywood blockbuster “3 idiots”. In 1988, a year after graduating as an engineer, Sonam, with his brother and five peers, formed the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL). Their first fundraising effort, a Ladakhi cultural show, proved to be a huge success. Until 1990 Sonam coached school students and offered vocational training courses to dropouts. Sonam had to get to the root of the problem, and the solution to that lay in localizing the system of elementary education. He did not think of building an alternate system because it would have resulted in a waste of resources. Besides, most of the children in Ladakh attended government-run schools.
In 1991 Sonam started his first intervention in the government school of Saspol with permission from the chief education officer of the region. The success of the model created popular demand for his training, and 33 villages came forward to adopt the model before the newly formed Hill Council adopted it as official policy.