Children in Perth learn Dzongkha
Much to the relief of Bhutanese parents, the Association of Bhutanese in Perth Incorporated (ABPI) has initiated a pilot project to teach Dzongkha language to Bhutanese children living in Perth, Australia.
The pilot project was started on November 17, 2018 by ABPI. The latter was established to create a vibrant Bhutanese community to make them feel at home, including taking care of their wellbeing, and promoting Bhutanese culture, identity and values.
The President of the association, Pema Choejey (PhD) said the initiate was to ensure that children, who accompanied their parents and those who were born in Australia, received the opportunity and platform to learn the national language, culture and values.
Meanwhile, Australia has become a favored destination for studies, employment and skilled migrations and the number of Bhutanese in western Australia is increasing every year. Many children accompany their parents, and some are born there in Australia. Since the number of children living in Perth is growing every year, parents are also worried that their children are lacking opportunities to learn the basic national language while in Perth.
However, with this new initiative, classes will be organized every Saturday and Sunday with a minimum of three sessions per day. Children are categorized into different groups based on the level of Dzongkha proficiency, such as those who can speak and write a little bit of Dzongkha, and those who already have high level knowledge of Dzongkha language.
The initiative, led by the ABPI in collaboration with Drukpa Perth Centre, parents, leaders and representatives of parents’ group and the teacher, is also trying to get the support of local schools in respective suburbs and other NGO’s dealing with the multi-cultural communities.
Currently, classes are being conducted at the Drukpa Perth Centre.
However, President Pema Choejey said this is only a temporary measure until they find a proper classroom suitable and conducive for teaching and learning.
ABPI is also exploring other appropriate classrooms and venues by seeking support from the local schools in respective suburbs and other communities in different city councils, where Bhutanese communities mostly reside.
While ABPI believes that the government has the direct responsibility to look after the welfare and wellbeing of every Bhutanese, the responsibility of finding a Dzongkha teacher also falls on all of them – the government, ABPI and parents.
The President said it may not be right to request the government to send a Dzongkha teacher to every country to teach the language as shortage of teachers in the country is also a challenge.
Although there are many parents who have been teachers, no one is willing to volunteer to teach children in Perth. They instead seem to be earning better doing other works. The Dzongkha Learning Committee (DLC) led by ABPI has, therefore, decided to pay USD 50 per session to the teacher and make the payment fortnightly to motivate the teacher and ensure the continuity of his service.
Currently, Lopen Kinley Dorji, a former monk, has volunteered to teach the Dzongkha language.
Their biggest worry is sustaining this initiative, according to the organizer. There is the possibility of teacher discontinuing the job or parents withdrawing their children. If either of these scenarios happens, the project will become a failure. One of the possible remedies is to remunerate the teacher handsomely for the time invested for teaching. The other remedy is to seek support from the government to provide us with a Dzongkha teacher.
So far 120 children have enrolled for the session and the number is likely to increase as they plan to expand classes to other suburbs.
There are around 5,000 Bhutanese presently residing in Perth.