Started with the vision to impart knowledge of Hindi language and Indian culture and heritage, Southland Hindi School in Invercargill has thrived to enrol more students in the class as it celebrated its first anniversary earlier last week.

Himani Galbraith, the brain and the force behind the school, started Hindi School in February 2019 with the vision to connect children with their heritage, language and enable them to feel confident and competent in knowing who they are and what roots do they come from.

Chair and Director of the Southland Hindi School Trust took this significant challenge for sowing the seed of Hindi language learning amongst children, as Invercargill has been witnessing in recent years a continuous increase in numbers of people of Indian origin, who often feel disconnected in the new environment.

“I started this to fill this gap and bring them together with the medium of language, art and culture. I have seen parents struggling to teach their children mother tongue and somewhere in between these children find themselves in a situation questioning about their identity and not feeling proud of who they are.

“As a teacher in New Zealand for more than six years, I have seen that this struggle could be real, and sometimes children become easily vulnerable to bullying and lack in self-confidence.

The school currently has 16 students enrolled and attending Hindi classes with five children in the playgroup of age 2-6.

The school is following the curriculum adopted by Wellington Hindi School and some other resources adapted to the needs of children attending the New Zealand schooling system. The classes are run from Invercargill City Library once a week for 2.5 hours, including a session for dance and drama.

“We also talk around parenting issues and help the new migrants in connecting with the organizations which could be a help and make them aware of the general laws of NZ. One teacher, including myself currently, and two volunteers deliver the classes,” Ms Himani Galbraith told The Indian Weekender.

Ms Himani further emphasised that the Hindi language and cultural classes is helping students identifying themselves with the Indian roots with more confidence and resilience.

“They are now participating in local community events and becoming an integral part of the community by making their presence felt and being bilingual helps them in processing things faster and inculcate respect for other languages and other cultures,” Ms Galbraith added.

The students have also performed last year in various community events such as for Southland Multicultural Council, for Indian Community in Southland and Santa parade.

Ms Glabraith also shared her struggles of starting a language school, especially in urban centers with a fewer co-ethnic population and the general misconceptions that other people can often have in absence of robust engagement with other communities.

“It was a huge challenge in the starting a school where connecting with the Hindi Language with the Hindu religion. However, I believe everything starts with educating people, and I believe in persevering it to send a correct message across.”

The school is currently supported by the local community, parents of the children studying at school, ILT Foundation, Community Trust South, Invercargill City Library, her husband Martin Galbraith and Ms Sunita Narayan from Wellington Hindi School.

Ms Galbraith has been associated with the education sector for two decades now and worked as a teacher, vice-principal, and an education consultant in India before moving to New Zealand.

Currently, Ms Galbraith is working with Family Works as a family support worker after teaching in school, early childhood centres for seven years in New Zealand.

“I encourage our Indian community to never forget the roots we came from, even when we become a Kiwi citizen, we must remember our Indian heritage. Our children’s learning must be rooted in their heritage to give them a strong base to grow and develop,” Ms Galbraith appealed.