Punjabi Language Education Association Holds Annual General Meeting


By Balwant Sanghera

SURREY – Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) had its Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, June 22 at Lovely Restaurant in Surrey. In addition to the PLEA Board members, attendees included a number of well-wishers of Punjabi, teachers, parents and some members of the media. I had the honour of presenting an update on the status of Punjabi language which included the following highlights:

Punjabi language has now become one of the most prominent languages not only in Canada but also in a number of other countries. Its status as the third most spoken language in this country has given Punjabi a fairly high profile.A number of recent developments at the local, provincial and national levels have been very positive in this regard. The election of more than twenty Punjabi speakers to the Canadian Parliament in October 2015 is a major boost for the Punjabi community and language.

Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) has been working very hard for more than 22 years in promoting Punjabi in BC’s public schools, post-secondary institutions and at various other levels. As a result of these efforts, Punjabi classes are under way in a number of schools, colleges and universities. For example, in Surrey, which is considered to be the centre of the Punjabi community,Punjabi classes are under way in seven secondary and three elementary schools. Similarly, Punjabi classes have been going on in many other communities including Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Delta and Abbotsford.As a result of efforts by PLEA, Indo-Canadian media and community, there is a lot of awareness about the benefits of learning Punjabi. As a matter of fact, Punjabi has now become the language of employment in many communities.

Like previous years, this year’s International Mother Language Day, celebrated in February at North Delta Recreation Centre was a great success. The attendees included a diverse group of youth, adults,scholars, elected officials and other prominent members of the community. PLEA was pleased to honour Mr. Gurdial Singh Neel and Mrs. Swaranjit Kaur Neel for their valuable contribution to Punjabi language and culture.

PLEA is very thankful to the Indo-Canadian Business Association of BC for its commitment to provide funding to S.F.U. in order to enableit torun Punjabi classes at its Surrey campus for the next three years beginning in September, 2016. It is also very thankful to its members, well-wishers and supporters for their tireless efforts in promoting Punjabi.Similarly, the Indo-Canadian media, both print and electronic, deserves our thanks for its continued support. Their support has made PLEA’s job a lot easier. Certainly, we have come a long way. However, there is still a lot to be accomplished.

Despite a lot of awareness about Punjabi language and its benefits especially here in Canada, PLEA’s major challenge still appears to be creating more pride in our mother tongue. Some members of our community still don’t seem to give Punjabi the credit it deserves. In order to make a difference, all of us need to work collectively in raising Punjabi’s profile not only locally but also provincially, nationally and internationally.

Finally, I would like to thank my fellow Board members, volunteers, parents, students, our media, well-wishers of Punjabi and the community for their dedication, commitment and efforts in working for the promotion and betterment of Punjab.

At the A.G.M. a very lively and thoughtful discussion followed the presentation of my report. Surrey School Trustee Garry Thind was kind enough to highlight some of the activities with respect to Punjabi in the district. He emphasized the need for more parent involvement especially at the elementary school level. Garry stated that the results of the recently concluded survey (grade 4 students’ interest in taking Punjabi in grade 5 in September) of ten elementary schools could have been better. He urged all of us-parents, PLEA, media and the district – to continue to work to-gether in this regard. Princess Margaret Secondary School teacher Aman Chhina, KPU instructor Ranbir Johal, Kulwinder Shergill, Tirath Khabra, Kuldip Bassi and a number of other attendees made very valuable suggestions to promote Punjabi in schools and the community. Current Board of Directors of PLEA- Balwant Sanghera, Sadhu Binning, Parvinder Dhariwal, Rajinder Pandher, Ranbir Johal, Paul Binning, Dayah Johal, Harmohanjit Pandher and Prabhjot Kaur- were acclaimed to continue to serve as directors for the coming year.

After a lively question and answer session, Kirpal Singh Garcha, who had just returned from India, shared his experiences about the state of Punjabi language in the Punjab. Mr. Garcha stated that he was very disappointed with the lack of pride and interest in their mother tongue Punjabi. The meeting concluded with light refreshments and a group picture of the attendees.

Balwant Sanghera  is the President, Punjabi Language Education Association.