Nurturing our languages

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Sanskrit, Hindi and Punjabi feature prominently in felicitation of community-based language-learning activities

Recognising the significant role they play in fostering cultural identity and language skills among the next generation, teachers from various language schools across Sydney were awarded for their service at the recent annual dinner organised by the NSW Federation of Community Language Schools.

More than 440 people, from 35 different language groups, came together to celebrate the achievements of the communities operating these schools. Volunteer teachers from IABBV Hindi School, Green Valley Hindi School and Vishva Hindu Parishad of Australia (VHP) were conferred long service awards for their dedication to language teaching for 10 years or more.

At the dinner, 16 teachers from VHP Australia received awards.

“This is recognition of the teachers’ extensive and continuous service to VHP Australia,” said Akila Ramarathinam, National General Secretary and Hindu Dharma Scripture Coordinator of VHP Australia. “They have volunteered a significant amount of time and it is important they are recognised for their efforts.”

The program of the evening also included presentations to students who entered this year’s colour poster competition where the theme was to present traditional costumes of the country of each language school.

Students from IABBV, Green Valley and VHP were all conferred awards, as were students from the Sydney Sanskrit School and Sydney Punjabi School.

This year’s guest of honour was the new NSW Minister for Multiculturalism John Ajaka MLC.

At the event, the Minister announced a funding grant for the NSW Federation of Community Language Schools to be used to further advance the cause of the community language schools sector.

Other distinguished guests including consular representatives, Shadow Multicultural Minister Sophie Cotsis, Minister for Innovation Victor Dominello and members of the Multicultural NSW Board were also in attendance.

As the diaspora Indian community continues to grow, there is a need for community language schools to help parents and children maintain a connection with their homeland or country of ancestry.

With seven schools across Sydney, catering to more than 150 students, the teachers at VHP Australia spend more than 40 weeks each year, every Sunday, imparting their knowledge. Students learn Sanskrit language skills and Vedic chanting, as well as gaining an understanding of Indian heritage and cultural values. There are also social activities including charity fundraising projects and intercultural excursions such as picnics with students from the Aboriginal Cultural and Education Centre.

“Initially the classes were only for children, but many migrant parents came to us, including many Fijian Indian migrants, who did not learn in their own country and wanted to be part of the classes,” Ramarathinam explained. “Now the parents also sit in on the classes. We are a family school teaching pre-schoolers and five-year-olds as well as adults.”

The teachers at VHP have been trained by Samskrit Bharati and attended 60 hours of spoken Sanskrit courses. Most of the teachers have also completed the certificate course for language teaching conducted by the University of Sydney, supported by the NSW Department of Education.

Community language schools continue to celebrate the cultural and linguistic diversity of the NSW community and we applaud the efforts of all the volunteer teachers.

 

Photos: Larry Anda