A couple of months ago, Nagnath Vibhute, a primary teacher in a government-run school at Jambhuldara Bhamb village in rural Pune, came across some interesting information. He got to know that there was a Marathi Vidyalaya in Australia. Curiosity prompted him to research the topic further, and Vibhute soon realised that there were similar schools across the world.
Keen to be part of the effort to spread Marathi and keep the language relevant in a foreign land, he reached out to the teachers of some of these schools and started a WhatsApp group. And that’s how Vibhute, and his students, ended up participating in two sessions, on video-call, for students of two schools run by the Marathi Mandal in Australia – the Australia Marathi Vidyalaya (AMV) in Westmead, Western Sydney, and in North Shore. During the sessions, teachers from both schools were first introduced to the students, who then proceeded to recite Marathi alphabets, numbers, songs and stories.
“I was very pleased when I realised that there are Marathi schools in different countries. I started contacting the teachers by e-mails and some of them responded, so I decided to form a WhatsApp Group. Currently, the group has 10 members, including teachers from India, Australia and Singapore. I have also contacted the Marathi school in Pakistan. The idea behind connecting with them was to spread the love for Marathi language… that’s why we decided to organise interactions between the teachers and our students…,” said Vibhute.
The schools in Australia are not formal ones, and run only for three hours on Saturdays, explained Amit Tere, who is the principal of AMV, Western Sydney. “Our school has approval from local government authorities but we are not part of mainstream education. There is no rigid syllabus or exam system… and the idea is to ensure that our children speak, read and write Marathi, which is their mother tongue. We hold lectures over the weekends. At our school, we have about 50 students … When Vibhute reached out to us, we thought it would be a good opportunity for our students to connect with students from a rural school in Pune, who primarily speak Marathi… because much learning can be done through interaction,” said Tere.
Vibhute then arranged for one session each with the two schools. Asked about the experience, he said his students were impressed, not just with the ability of their Australian counterparts to converse in Marathi, but even by their clear pronunciations. “They even recited an entire story in Marathi…,” he said.
Since it’s vacation time for Australian schools, the weekend classes have stopped temporarily, but Vibhute said he has already started preparing for more sessions that will be held after the break. “… I am hoping to conduct the same kind of sessions with other countries as well. I think this initiative will also go a long way in changing the perception about government schools. I may be a primary teacher in a school that has only seven rooms and teaches only up to Std VII, but even we have gone digital. Our students can connect and compete with the rest of the world, and such initiatives will help further the understanding of government schools,” he said.