BY BALWANT SANGHERA
Punjabi Language Education Association
PUNJABI Language Education Association (PLEA) had a very successful International Mother Language Day (IMLD) celebration at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) campus on Saturday, February 23. PLEA had been eager to establish a partnership with an educational institution for quite some time. The Deepak Binning Foundation (DBF), a staunch and long- time supporter of PLEA, finally opened KPU’s doors for it.
Recently, DBF donated $200,000 to KPU for scholarships for needy students. In consultation with KPU, it set the stage for partnership between PLEA and the university. KPU offered its facility to PLEA to hold its functions on its campus in Surrey. It was in this context that PLEA held its 16th IMLD in the Spruce Building atrium. PLEA is very thankful to both DBF and KPU for this.
PLEA Board member Parabjot Kaur commenced the celebration by welcoming the attendees and representatives of KPU and DBF. As PLEA president, I had the honour to extend a very warm welcome to the attendees, thank the South Asian media and provide an update of PLEA’s activities, successes and future aspirations. The attendees were provided with an overview of the elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions where Punjabi classes have been under way.
It is very gratifying to note that last September two more elementary schools in Surrey – T.E.Scott and Chimney Hill – were added to the four elementary schools where Punjabi classes are offered now. Similarly, Punjabi is available in nine secondary schools in Surrey, two each in New Westminster, Burnaby South, North Delta and five schools in Abbotsford. In addition to that, four universities – UBC, SFU, UFV and KPU are also offering Punjabi classes.
L.A. Matheson teacher and community activist Annie Ohana gave a very inspiring keynote address emphasizing the role and importance of the mother tongue. She impressed the audience by presenting her own story / experience in this regard.
This year’s celebration had a very strong focus on student participation. The attendees enjoyed and appreciated the work of students displayed at the celebration. Fourteen students from various schools presented poems, short stories, songs, essays and speeches in a very impressive manner. They included Sukhman Kambo, Sahib Kambo (Green Timbers Elementary), Gurjit Randhawa (KPU), Rajveer Kaler, Sami Gill, Harleen Phagura, Harmeen Phagura, Keerat Dhillon, Ashmeen Gill (Princess Margaret Secondary), Raveen Grewal, Prabhjot Vashisht, Karman Gill, Amanveer Kaur and Jasmeen Dhaliwal (L.A. Matheson). All of these students impressed the audience with the high quality and commendable presentations.
In addition to that, the audience was treated to a short film – Talaq (Divorce) – prepared by L.A. Matheson students Rasveen, Jasmeen Saini, Komal Dhami, Puneet Bains, Keerat Kalair and Haman Gill. It related to the issues concerning marriage problems in the Punjabi community.
On behalf of PLEA, Sadhu Binning and I were honoured to present Certificates of Appreciation and two books each (written by students) as token of our appreciation.
PLEA Vice President Sadhu Binning urged the community to get actively involved in promoting Punjabi at every level. He issued a challenge to everyone present to approach the decision makers in Ottawa to revisit the national language policy. Sadhu stressed that it is strange that despite our community’s contribution to Canada for more than 120 years, our mother tongue Punjabi is still considered as a foreign language. It has been overdue to get the “landed immigrant” status for our mother tongue Punjabi in this country.
PLEA recognized the contribution of two prominent members of our community for their excellent contribution to Punjabi language education and presented them with plaques. They are Surrey School Trustee Garry Thind and PMSS teacher Preet Dhillon. Both Garry and Preet have done an excellent job in promoting Punjabi in Surrey and PLEA is very thankful to both of them.
Finally, PLEA is very thankful to the South Asian media, its volunteers and the community for their ongoing support and efforts in creating more pride in our mother tongue Punjabi. PLEA is pleased to receive a Certificate of Appreciation from Legislative Assembly of British Columbia which was presented by Surrey MLAs Bruce Ralston, Rachna Singh, Jinny Sims, Jagrup Brar and Harry Bains. Also, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to join us on this occasion and helped in many ways. All of this would not have been possible without the hard work of PLEA’s dedicated members of the Board of Directors: Sadhu Binning, Parabjot Kaur , Harmohanjit Singh Pandher, Dayah Johal, Paul Binning, Parvinder Dhariwal, Rajinder Singh Pandher and Ranbir Johal.