A Mechanical Engineer by education, Mr Sonam Wangchuk has been working in the field of education reform for more than 27 years.After he finished his engineering studies in 1988, he founded SECMOL (Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh) www.secmol.org, which aims to bring reforms in the government school system in Ladakh. In 1994 he was instrumental in the launch of Operation New Hope, a triangular collaboration of the government, village communities and the civil society to bring reforms in the government school system. The programme involved formation of the Village Education Committees to take ownership of state schools, training of teachers in child friendly ways and re-writing and publishing localised text books for Ladakh. As a result, the pass percentage at 10th grade (matriculation) rose from a dismal 5% to 55% in seven years and 75% presently.
For students who still failed in their state exams, he founded the SECMOL Alternative School Campus near Leh, a special school where the admission criteria is failure in exams and not grades. With the supportive and creative environment at school, the students who failed, have excelled in their chosen fields and risen to international acclaim as entrepreneurs, film makers, politicians and teachers among others.
As an engineer, Mr Sonam has been teaching innovation at the SECMOL Alternative School, where with students, he designed and built solar heated buildings that are low cost, made of earth/mud but maintain +15 C even when the outside temperature is – 15 C in Ladakhi winters.
To solve the water crisis facing mountain regions due to climate change and fast melting glaciers, he invented the Ice Stupa artificial glacier which stores the wasting stream waters in winter in the form of giant ice cones or stupas and releases the water in late spring as they melt just when farmers need water.
Mr Sonam Wangchuk was presented with several awards and titles:
- The prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award 2018
- The GQ Men of the Year Award for Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2017 in India
- The Rolex Award for Enterprise 2016 in Hollywood USA
- The Terra Award 2016 for World’s best Earth Buildings in Lyon France
- The UNESCO Chair for Earth Architecture for India in 2014
- ‘Real Heroes’ Award by CNN IBN Channel in 2008
- ‘Green Teacher’ Award by Sanctuary Asia Magazine in 2005
- Ashoka Fellowship by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public in 2002
- ‘Man of the Year’ by The Week magazine in India in 2001
- Governors Medal by the J&K State Government in 1996