SECMOL Campus, Phey

Film 8 min. about Foundation Year, by Raghu and friends, Accessible Horizon Films, 2012. On YouTube or Vimeo.

Video 9 min. made by SECMOL students as an introduction to the campus, as a workshop by Lu Davidson, 2009.

Film 43 min. in Ladakhi about Foundation Year, by SECMOL Media

Description by a visitor from South Africa, September 2013

Collection of photographs by a German student 2014

SECMOL Campus is located near the village of Phey in the Indus valley 18 km from Leh. It was developed between 1994 and 1999 and was inaugurated in 1998 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Built using simple, low-cost traditional techniques, the campus now comprises three residential houses, 20 small ‘cell rooms’ and a large school building, all solar heated. More than a thousand trees have been planted, and a vegetable garden.

The campus is home to about 40 students and a few staff and volunteers, who live, work and study here. From time to time, it hosts trainings, workshops and youth camps for up to 100 additional people.

The campus is maintained, and to a large degree run, by the students themselves on a democratic basis.

The buildings

Eco- and culture-friendly principles:

Low cost and locally available materials and techniques: Rammed earth and arched windows which reduced the use of expensive, imported wood.

Passive solar heating: To find out more about the solar design of SECMOL buildings, check out our section on solar energy »

A pleasing Ladakhi style and appearance.

Among the buildings of the campus:

The main building

This building comprises a big solar heated teaching hall, several rooms for the students, and other classrooms and offices.

The small single rooms, kitchen and dining hall

The kitchen and lower dining hall is our main hangout. In the kitchen the students prepare meals with the cook. Adjoining is the dining hall where people drink tea, play games, discuss or read the newspapers.

On each side of the kitchen is a row of tiny single rooms, living quarters for volunteers and staff. The rooms face south towards the mountains and the Indus River. In front is a vegetable garden tended by students.

Bathing block

The bathing block has eight private showers, solar heated water, and large sinks for washing.

Dry composting Ladakhi toilets

Traditional Ladakhi-style dry composting toilets use no water (important in this desert climate), and the manure is useful for fertilizing the fields and trees.

Energy and food reliance

Our goal is to be as self-reliant as possible in food and energy, and for our campus to be a model.

A photovoltaic (solar electric) system provides year-round, 24-hour electricity for lighting, TV, computers and tools, as well as for pumping water up from the Indus River. A very simple but cheap and efficient solar water heater warms water for bathing.

All SECMOL buildings are heated through the winter solely by passive solar design. To find out more about solar energy on Phey campus, see our section on solar energy »

The campus was an empty desert when we arrived, but we now have animals, gardens and trees. There are three cows on the campus and some chickens. Apart from providing milk and eggs, the animals also utilise left-over food. The greenhouses provide vegetables even in the coldest of winter, and thousands of trees are now growing on campus. The gardens are organic, using only natural manure and no chemicals.

Life on campus

Students, volunteers and staff live together on the campus, creating a rich and lively atmosphere perfect for inter-cultural exchange.

The students take care of everything on campus, and have responsibilities for everything from maintaining the solar electricity to milking the cows to buying the food for the kitchen to cleaning. Their day starts early with physical exercises, and the first classes are before breakfast.

The meals, prepared by the students and the cook, are taken together in the dining hall. Dinner is usually accompanied by the evening radio news in Ladakhi, traditional Ladakhi songs, and a short speech by a volunteer or a student.

Evenings are spent doing homework, hanging out in the dining hall or evening activities such as ‘song and dance night’ or movies.