Silver Bells ring at Wellington Hindi School with a resolve

Sunita Narayan

With 73 enrolled students from a diverse range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds (Cantonese, English, Fiji Hindi, Gujarati, Panjabi, Mandarin, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, to name a few) and eight teachers, the three branches of the Wellington Hindi School are a buzzing place on Saturdays and Sundays.

This has been the practice for the past 25 years.

Our school is one of the several Hindi schools in New Zealand that support families and learners to achieve their culture maintenance aspirations, taking the lead to create conditions for effective teaching and learning.

We offer language and culture education to children from preschool age to Year 6, and run classes for adults on demand.

Headed by Jagdish Prasad, the School started in 1992 with classes held in a family’s spare room. Today, there are three branches, one each in Newlands, Lower Hutt and Wellington City. Supporting Language SchoolsOver the past 25 years, we have developed the capability to support other language schools. The common need among these learners is to learn Hindi and its culture to connect with Hindi speaking communities in New Zealand and in other countries. Some learners, including adults, have expressed interest in the growing engagement between New Zealand and India, interest in development work in South Asia, and growing relationships and friendship with Indians.With the changes in population demographics of New Zealand, the diversity in learner competence, languages and cultures have changed remarkably. Increasing diversityToday, over 50% of our students are from non-Hindi speaking backgrounds. This has required a change in operational and teaching and learning strategies. Our award-winning curriculum places the learners and their families at the centre of the system and takes an inclusive and holistic approach to teaching and learning. Our vision is to develop confident, connected, actively involved life-long learners who are integrated into the NZ community. We aspire to (a) Build a strong foundation for Hindi at early years and propagating Hindi beyond the Diaspora (b) Align our programmes with the New Zealand school system (c) Integrate our learners into the New Zealand social, cultural and economic landscape and (d) Expose our learners to learning experiences outside the classroom to develop overall competence and confidence. Studying HindiSome children attend the School as their parents’ desire to maintain Hindi, while families from non-Hindi speaking backgrounds want their children to learn Hindi as another language. There are several families where one parent is Hindi speaking – these families aspire to bring up multilingual children. Adults may come to classes because they are planning to visit India, or are doing business with Indians. Some come simply because they love Indian culture. Sixteen-year-old Supriti Singh says, “Learning or being fluent in another language creates so many opportunities and gives us a huge advantage when it comes to exploring options for a career path. For example, we learn not only a different language but the cultural practices that come with that language.”Training TeachersTo keep abreast of developments, we conduct teacher meetings at least once a term, collaborate with Asia New Zealand Foundation in running activities for children during Diwali festival, maintain contact with international experts, and the World Hindi Secretariat in Mauritius.Our two students, New Zealand-born Ashmita Singh and Kamla Walia are now in the teaching team.

Silver Jubilee initiatives

Among the activities undertaken to mark the Silver Jubilee of the School were the following:

Leadership workshop ‘Every child is a leader’ organised and facilitated by Kashmir Kaur, a parent. This workshop coincided with ‘Sir Peter Blake Trust Leadership Week’ (July 3 to July 7, 2017)

Publication of the school’s 5-yearly magazine Darpan

Hindi Divas and Annual Programme on September 2016

Art Workshop for students during Term Three holidays 2016

 

Future of the learners

Knowing Hindi opens doors to many opportunities.

In New Zealand, Hindi is the fourth most spoken language nationally and the third most spoken in Auckland (Census figures 2013).

Globally, Hindi is the most spoken language after Mandarin.

It is the first language of around 430 million people around the world.

Apart from India, the language is also spoken in Nepal, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Fiji and Mauritius. This means our little learners of today will be able to connect within and beyond the Diaspora and build stronger relationships with their Hindi-speaking families.

Fostering cultural values

For those with Hindi as their heritage language, it will help our future generations to relate to the wider world, including India and connect with their roots.

They will develop a deeper appreciation of their rich cultural heritage.

It will help the young people retain their cultural values, strengthen social and relationship skills, and develop a sense of identity and pride.

For those who want to learn Hindi as another language, this is an opportunity to understand another culture better.

This prepares our future generations for the opportunities, challenges and adaptability to diverse cultural norms to participate in complex global affairs.

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