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Plumpton’s Balakairali caters to the language learning needs of children in Sydney’s Keralite community
Why do Sydney’s Malayalee kids like their weekend language lessons?
“They help us to talk to our grandparents, and understand them well.”
“We can communicate with our cousins when we visit them in India.”
The senior students at Balakairali, the weekend Malayalam school based in Plumpton, are spot on about why they should learn their mother tongue.
The school was founded eight years ago, on an experimental basis for a period of three months. The enthusiasm of the children, their parents and that of the teachers who volunteer there, has made sure that it continues to operate today. Classes are held every Sunday afternoon from 3pm-5pm. Some 45 kids attended in 2015.
The school also boasts a steadily growing library of Malayalam books, numbering nearly 250, which has now begun to cater to the larger community.
Lloyd Mathew, one of the office bearers of the school told Indian Link, “Sometimes, the school gets the least of priority in the jam-packed weekends for many families, yet it is pleasing to see that majority of the kids turn up on most days.”
Interestingly, it is the pleasure of being together that motivates the kids to attend.
“We understand that our friends at Balakairali are from the same cultural background as us, and that aligns us,” one student, Abhirami told Indian Link. “It is interesting that all of us and our parents talk the same language, and we can identify with each other which is something we miss out on, at regular school.”
Asha Sajeesh, one of the parents said, “This school time will be cherished by the kids for years to come, and they will develop a deep friendship with their classmates, based on the thread of the language and culture that connects them.”
Apart from celebrating events like Onam, the state festival of Kerala, the school also conducts the annual traditional initiation into the characters of syllabary, called Vidyarambham. Held on the occasion of Vijayadasami, this ritual sees children formally initiated into the classical education of music, dance, languages and other arts. As part of the ceremony, the alphabet is written with rice in a tray, supervised by a guru (teacher). Raman Krishna Iyer, a community elder and journalist, has been supervising the ceremony for all these years. Mr Iyer said, “Kids from different religions come to do the initiation and it is the sentiment that matters. The connecting element is the language and the culture here, not the religion. Even though I am not aware of the prayers to initiate the kids from various religions except for Hinduism, I do it with a clean heart, and bless them all. I am sure this honesty and integrity will be reflected in the lives of the kids.”
In a world that is scattered on the basis of religious fragmentation, it is these very sparks of commitment, righteousness and an insight into one’s own roots, that will help make things better. And a school the imparts these values will cultivate tomorrow’s responsible citizens.