Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
You would be delighted to read from a young activist, Manat Kaur, who took a few months off, after her graduation from high school in Sandiego, California, to spend time volunteering in Punjab. The love of Punjab and Punjabi pulled her to her homeland and she reached out to us to be able to volunteer for our cause. While there, she spent sometime studying the education system in the government schools of Punjab and connecting children to the love of the language through our books as well as donating them for their libraries. Here are some pictures and a report from Manat. Please notice how scantily the libraries are stocked with Punjabi language books. Thank You, for your support that allows us to bring this gift in Punjabi to the children of Punjab.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed reading the Folktales of Punjab storybooks to students across schools in the Patiala region. I’ve been reading traditional Punjabi stories from the Sanjha Punjab book which is a compilation of several traditional Punjabi folk tales translated into English and Shahmukhi (Urdu script) as well. The stories consist of a bird who turns to others for help after she loses her food, a farmer who must prevent a bird from eating his crops, and a lamb who must find a way to safely traverse the forest after animals threaten to eat him. The book gives me the opportunity to discuss the stories in both English and Punjabi, which is a great way for kids to broaden knowledge in both languages.
The students have found the stories to be very engaging. Often, I can’t even hear myself reading since they drown out my voice while shouting to complete the rhymes! They’re a big fan of the illustrations and we frequently end up on tangents about which animal or tree is the prettiest.
The interactions with the students helped me learn more about the Punjab education system, status of the Punjabi language, and youth aspirations. I have been impressed by the schools that I have visited thus far in the pinds. The facilities and infrastructure all seem to be well-run and maintained.
I found that students attending rural schools were far more likely to speak pure Punjabi, while students at the urban schools were more likely to communicate with each other and the teacher in Hindi.
I was disappointed to hear from one of the students that their teacher actively discouraged them from speaking Punjabi both in school and at home so that they could instead learn Hindi. When I asked this same student to speak with me in Punjabi and not Hindi he insisted he had been speaking Punjabi throughout our conversation. I was surprised to see that he, and a couple of other students like him, could not even distinguish between Punjabi and Hindi despite having grown up in Punjab.
In the rural schools, the students spoke beautiful Punjabi. I actually learned a lot of new vocabulary and cultural elements through talking to them. My highlight was when an eight-year-old boy refused to turn on the light and another girl told him “tere taa lacchan hi maare hain” with so much attitude I felt like I was watching a Punjabi movie.
The biggest challenge I encountered was that children’s aspirations for the future simply weren’t big enough. Students predominantly answered that they wanted to do IELTS to go abroad, become a police officer, or join the army. It made me realize that students in Punjab need exposure to role models in a variety of fields so that they know all that is possible for them.
Overall, I was impressed by their energy and love for learning. And of course, they were adorable! Kids enthusiastically invited me to spend the summer with them at their relatives' houses, sang me poems and Punjabi songs, and brought out their own books to read me some of their favorite Punjabi stories. I’m excited to continue spending time with more students in the coming weeks!
These are the schools that Manak Kaur visited and distributed books to along with her magical inspiration.
Akal Academy Bhunsal
Primary School Sangatpura
Primary School Khusropur
Primary School Seel
Primary School Dhaderian