Wednesday, December 16, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Nepal: Price tag powers craze for Sanskrit

Price tag powers craze for Sanskrit
Last Updated : 2009-12-15 12:18 PM
The Himalayan Times
Manoj Shrestha

BIRATNAGAR: It is a role reversal for 12-year-old Subeda Khatun.
Contrary to her religious beliefs, the Saraswati Tole resident has
been enjoying her Sanskrit classes in school.

What is the reason behind her new-found interest? Well, it is an
economic consideration. Boarding schools in this commercial hub in the
eastern region are often out of bounds for a majority of parents. The
Khatuns, too, fall in that category. Guided by the mantra of
inexpensive but good education, they enrolled Subeda in Gayatri
Sanskrit School. But the move has not gone down well with her
community members. Many are making fun of her. "How can a Muslim girl
study Sanskrit?" is the common refrain.

However, an unfazed Subeda is proud of her accomplishment. "I'm now
proficient in one of the classical languages in the world," she said.
Gayatri Sanskrit School has been a source of empowerment for
impoverished children, hailing from Muslim, Dalit and Janajati

The institution, which is located bang in the middle of Saraswati Tole
- a Muslim-dominated locality, provides education for free, much to
the relief for hard-up parents.

Bina Kumari Khatwe, 16, is a student of Grade IX. The teenager, too,
is making best use of this golden opportunity. So much so that she is
now adept at translation from her mother tongue — Nepali — to

Chakrapani Upadhyaya, teacher, Gayatri Sanskrit School, gave an
insight into the equal opportunity institution's "yeoman service".

Presently, around 500 students are on its rolls. Of the total
strength, around 40 per cent are Janajatis. Though there are 25 per
cent high caste Brahmin students, the egalitarian trait is well in
place, thanks to a sizeable representation by the Muslims and Dalits.

"In a significant breakdown of religious barrier, 24 Muslim students
have become fluent in Sanskrit," said Upadhyaya.

Teacher Kishor Acharya also lauded the Dalit and Janajati students'
avid interest in the ancient language. But, the cost is what
attracting parents to Gayatri Sanskrit School. Compare this: Usually,
a boarding school charges a monthly fee of minimum Rs 900. While, the
annual expense at Gayatri Sanskrit School is only Rs 300.


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