GENX JUST WON'T MOUTH MOTHER TONGUE 

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By BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT in Calcutta
  • Published 5.09.01
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Calcutta, Sept. 5 :    Calcutta, Sept. 5:  The 73-year-old Bhawanipur Gujarati Education Society School has hit a language barrier. The school on Heysham Road, set up by city-based Gujaratis "to ensure better education of their children and preserve the community's rich cultural heritage in an alien land", is now clearing the decks to scrap Gujarati from its syllabus. Justifying the proposal, which will be placed shortly before the executive council and the board of trustees for approval, Heena Gorsia, secretary of the Society, said: "In view of the declining demand for Gujarati as a second language from the student community, we think it's wise to discontinue it." Records from the school register support the observation of declining interest in Gujarati as a subject. "Ninety per cent students would opt for Gujarati as their second language even two to three years back, but the number is dwindling very fast and has come down to around 50 per cent now," says Gorsia. Reacting to this trend, Anjana Shah, wife of Governor Viren J. Shah said: "It's a matter of regret that after the British have left India, more people now want their children to learn English. This, in itself, is not bad, but they must not ignore learning their mother tongue. They don't even speak their mother tongue at home these days. For me, the pleasant surprise is that in Calcutta, as I have also observed in the UK and USA, Bengalis always speak their language and do not ignore it. I, therefore, feel sorry that the Gujaratis in Calcutta are reluctant to learn their mother tongue. I hope this trend will reverse." A "lack of interest" is not the only factor going against Gujarati. Gorsia points out "unavailability of quality teachers" as a serious problem. "We have just two teachers - one of them rendering voluntary service - for 400 students and it's very difficult to continue this way," she admits. Gorsia's argument is supported by Jitendrabhai Majithia, secretary of the 109-year-old Calcutta Anglo Gujarati (CAG) School. "We don't get good young teachers to fill up the vacancies created after retirement of our senior teachers." Gujarati remains the first language in this West Bengal Board school on Pollock Street, where till 1985-86, all subjects were taught in Gujarati. Now, English is the medium of instruction. "Gujarati is our mother tongue and we will try our best to inculcate knowledge of this language in the next generation. The rest is up to them," observes Majithia. Not every Gujarati teenager is ready to junk the language, just yet. As Ruchita Doshi, a Class X student of Bhawanipur, put it: "Ours is a rich language with high literary value. Some of my friends may not be interested in the subject, but I strongly feel the need to continue with Gujarati as a subject in our school." It will take many more like Ruchita Doshi to save the language from being consigned to pages of the past. "The move to drop Gujarati appears to be a practical one. But if there is evidence of a serious demand for the language from students, the decision will most definitely be reviewed," assures Gorsia.