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Private school notification riles many

Updated October 14, 2016


SAHIWAL: A cross section of society, especially prominent Punjabi language activists and literary organisations, have taken a dim view of a private school’s notification which dubs Punjabi a “foul language.”

Some parents of the enrolled students joined the voices of anguish over a 10-point notification which has been served on parents by the management of an elite school’s boys campus at Farid Town. They demanded immediate withdrawal of the notification and that the institution tender an apology to those who have Punjabi their mother language.

The notification declares Punjabi a “foul language for the children as well as parents”. The fifth point of the notification reads: “Foul language is NOT ALLOWED within and outside the school premises, in the morning, during the school hours, and after home time”.

Activists, parents seek explanation for ‘demeaning Punjabi’

The notice goes on to explain the definition of foul language saying: “Foul language includes taunts, abuses, Punjabi and the hate speech.”

Sources told Dawn that the notification had been circulated in all branches of the school in Punjab. The parents, as is the standard practice, have been asked to sign the notification and return it to the school office.

Mr Jameel Ahmed, the principal of the school’s campus in question, claimed he had received the contents of the notification from the “Head Office, Lahore.” He declined to comment when asked about the reasons for using derogatory word for the Punjabi language.

Punjabi scholar and columnist Mushtaq Soofi told Dawn over telephone that he had seen the notification on social media and found it “disgracing to millions of Punjabis who are living in Pakistan and Indian Punjab and also the Punjabi diaspora living across the globe.”

Prof Dr Saeed Bhutta of the Punjab University’s Oriental College had this to say: “The Punjabi language has an age-old history starting off from Baba Farid (Pakpattan) to Khwaja Farid (Kot Mithan). The notification is a disgrace and ignorance of a ‘certain class’ towards Punjabi heritage”.

For Rao Shafiq, a former educationist who is now a rights activist, speaking the mother language is a guaranteed constitutional right. “The 1973 Constitution allows the federating units to impart formal primary learning in mother tongue. The question is how can a school instruct parents to not speak the Punjabi language,” he decried.

Corroborating the views, the father of a fifth-grade student (in the school) said the notification’s wording “demeans a language which has been used by the saints and seers over the last many centuries.”

“This means that our children should not speak to their grandparents only because their language is Punjabi,” bemoaned another parent. “It seems to be an attempt to deprive children of folk wisdom and rich cultural identity,” he said.

Amjad Saleem, a known publisher in Lahore, says protection and promotion of regional languages of Pakistan is a guaranteed constitutional right which no school can undo.

Meanwhile, a meeting at Mahkain Punjabi Adabi Board chaired by Mushtaq Adil Kathaya passed a resolution condemning the language of the notification. The participants demanded withdrawal of the notification and an “explanation” from the school management.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2016