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Plateau Kids
Photographs by Wang Weitao

 

Leaping across a ditch on her way to school. Some kids’ homes are several kilometers from school. They need to get up early and take the quickest route, which means some parts of the trek may not be very safe.   Reading outdoors. Compared with studying in a run-down classroom, reading outdoors on a sunny day is a lot more appealing. Students pair up to play a game involving clapping to a beat.

After graduating from the Shaanxi Normal University’s Department of Fine Arts in 2011, Wang Weitao ventured to Tibet to work as an art teacher in the No. 4 Lhasa Senior Middle School. In his spare time, the young photography enthusiast began shooting his new surroundings. Wang believed he was communicating with the land through his camera. He shot scenery and trains, but most often, people. In the homes of his Tibetan students, Wang chatted with their families, drank butter tea, and joined local Tibetan dances. Wang posted many of his first photos with the families on his blog. “The whole world can see you and your livestock on the internet,” he told his students.  

When he had a break of more than three days, Wang would travel to Shigatse, about 300 kilometers from Lhasa. He would either visit a local elementary school and serve as a volunteer teacher or volunteer in an orphanage. Naturally, kids became his most frequent subjects. In Wang’s eyes, although they didn’t lead affluent lives, they demonstrated profound joy when they studied and played. They considered poverty temporary and had the courage to fight for a future, a pure embodiment of a will and a way. Because of Wang’s works, donations to the school and the orphanage increased. The orphanage became public and now receives support from the government, and the kids’ lives have been greatly improved.

Wang wants to help more local kids with his photography. “I have greater ambitions than just capturing pictures of them. Showcasing their lives and educational situations gets them more attention and thus improves their lives. I hope they will learn great things from the world and develop broad vision.”

The bulk of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Tibet Autonomous Region covers a vast area at an average altitude of 4,000 meters. Although the overall education situation in Tibet has witnessed rapid development in recent years, it is still comparatively weak in remote areas, especially those with inconvenient transportation and poor communication. Lacking infrastructure, including schools, is already a big challenge in remote areas of Tibet. However, schools specifically impact kids the most. They are not only beacons of knowledge, but also hope and happiness, adding vibrant color to otherwise dull and lonely lives. In recent years, Tibet has adopted many preferential policies to help poverty-stricken students in elementary and middle schools and spared no efforts to establish a mechanism to allocate quality education resources to remote areas, border areas, and agricultural and pastoral areas. In 2013 alone, 209 new kindergartens opened. By January 2014, 860 elementary schools were operating in Tibet.

In terms of orphanages, to which Wang has paid great attention in his work, Tibet doesn’t have many. Less than 20 governmental child welfare institutions are found in Tibet. Many orphans are raised by their relatives or parents’ friends. However, the future holds hope, as local governments have been increasing investment in this field. 

A fierce rope skipping competition between two girls. In the school, the game of rope skipping often consists of one participant turning and jumping the rope, or a minimum of three students taking turns, two of whom turn the rope while one jumps. In this circumstance, the game begins when the skipper jumps in and ends when the skipper messes up. A simple swing produced by students with a plank and rope. Each waits patiently for a turn.  Kids play soccer with the school’s only ball, a volleyball. Team sports are most popular with them.

Several brave kids climb a tree to watch their fellow students play. Without many facilities in the school, kids keep each other company.   A tug-of-war without rope. Kids are quite innovative in terms of creating their own games.  Kids in an orphanage. After this work was honored by National Geographic in 2012, kids in the orphanage started seeing more attention and greater donations, and their lives have improved.

 

 

 

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