Bhojpuri: The Road Ahead

The time is ripe for the introduction of Bhojpuri within the portals of Secondary Education

After dacades of laisser-pour-compte in the backwaters of the Mauritian cultural, linguistic and heritage environment, Bhojpuri today is a powerful and vibrant force to be reckoned with.

The Government of Mauritius has taken several bold steps to empower Bhojpuri and give it recognition as a national language:

1.     Through an Act of Parliament enacted on 6th July 2011, the Bhojpuri Speaking Union was set up. It operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Arts and Culture, with a wide scope of aims and functions.

2.     The Ministry of Education and Human Resources has introduced Bhojpuri in the primary school cursus as from January 2012 through a Cabinet decision taken on 1st July 2011.

3.     The MBC operates as from February 2013 a daily 24-hour Bhojpuri Channel to the delight of Mauritians. Besides, it offers several other bouquets such as Chala Gaon Ghoome, Gulmohar ki Chaoun Mein, Bhojpuri Top 5, annual Bhojpuri song competitions, and so on.

4.     The Government of Mauritius has recommended to the UNESCO the Bhojpuri Geet Gawai, as practised in Mauritius, to be inscribed on the world cultural patrimony.

5.     The Ministry of Arts and Culture has been running drama festivals in the Bhojpuri language for the past 30 years.

6.     The Prof. Basdeo Bissoondoyal College of Mr Ramnath Jeetah in Flacq has been running courses in Bhojpuri at secondary level for more than 12 years.

7.     There are several books, dictionaries, anthologies of poetry written in Bhojpuri by Mauritian authors.

However, the fact remains that there is not enough awareness in the public of the tremendous progress made at the pedagogical level in the teaching and promotion of Bhojpuri in the education sector.

Do we know that the Department of Bhojpuri, Folklore and Oral Traditions of the MGI has been in existence since 1982? Are we aware that this Department has been running academic courses in Bhojpuri at tertiary level jointly with the University of Mauritius?

a)     First of all, the MGI operates a three-month Introductory Course in Bhojpuri since 2010 for non-Bhojpuri speakers.

b)     The MGI’s Bhojpuri Department runs a Core Module of Bhojpuri in the BA Mauritian Course (UOM) since the past two years.

c)      A third course run by the Bhojpuri Department of MGI under the School of Mauritian and Area Studies is the GEM – General Educational Module which offers Bhojpuri as an optional module for all students of the University.

What I want to emphasize here is that the time is ripe now for the introduction of Bhojpuri at the secondary level of education. Books, pedagogical materials and teachers are available. More local writers will get encouragement to embark in creative writing in Bhojpuri as their works can be included in the syllabus. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources has to take the bull by the horns. MGI, MIE and MES can pool their efforts together to create optimum synergy for the effective take-off of the project.

Let us not forget that the same Cabinet Decision of 1st July 2011 made mention that:

a)     besides its introduction in Standard I (the preparation of the Standard Three materials is presently well under way), Bhojpuri would be incorporated within the co- and extra curricular component of the Enhancement Programme (Asian Languages) for pupils of Standards Three and Four. This, I understand, is already being implemented.

b)     It was also decided by Cabinet on the same date that “at the Lower Secondary Level i.e. Forms I to III, Bhojpuri would be gradually introduced within the Hindi Curriculum, as in Primary Schools. With regard to Upper Secondary Schools, students who choose to pursue studies in Bhojpuri up to Form V or HSC would be allowed to do so’’.

“The writing and validation of new Bhojpuri textbooks to be studied at different levels are being finalized and the MIE and the MGI would carry out a training programme (Bhojpuri) for Primary Hindi teachers.”

At a recent launch of textbooks in Hindi for Form Four classes, at the MGI recently, the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Dr Vasant Bunwaree did inquire about the Form IV Bhojpuri textbooks. He asked “where are the Bhojpuri textbooks for Form IV?”

It is also envisaged by government to introduce Bhojpuri at Pre-Primary School Level, as “pre-primary schooling plays an important role in language development’’. The young child will thus gain esteem for a home language which has been neglected and relegated to the far corner of his unconscious, yet very much present in the multitude of environmental displays and use.

With the introduction of Bhojpuri at the Secondary Level, a large array of advantages is available to the student and potentialities for job opportunities are great. There is more scope for employment prospects in several sectors such as: Teaching, translation work, travel and tours operation /cultural tourism, hospitality sector, etc, in the publicity, documentaries, films and advertising sectors, in the media, television, Bhojpuri Channels, making of Bhojpuri Serials, Writing of Bhojpuri scripts, lyrics, Bhojpuri Plays, etc., Bhojpuri cultural happenings, and Bhojpuri extravaganzas.

There are many Hindi graduates who could benefit from an additional knowledge of Bhojpuri to widen their horizon and enhance their career prospects.

Several universities worldwide in the USA, Holland, UK, France offer advanced studies at PhD Level in subjects such as Bhojpuri and/or Anthropology and Sociology. The prestigious Benares Hindu University has a well-structured Bhojpuri Study Centre and overseas students may offer research programmes at PhD Level without physical presence at the University. The Purvanchal University of Jaunpur has plans to create a Bhojpuri Unit. The Nalanda Open University (NOU) at Patna, Bihar, and IGNOU (New Delhi) offer courses in Bhojpuri at Intermediate and Tertiary Levels. The University of Mauritius and the newly operational Open University of Mauritius (OUM) also offer postgraduate research studies in Bhojpuri. Therefore students who have a module in Bhojpuri at Tertiary Level would be at an added advantage.

As is well known, students who offer Hindi as a subject at any level in Mauritius (primary to tertiary including postgraduate) come from a Bhojpuri background (99.1%). In the academic courses in Hindi, the sister languages such as Apabhramsas and other dialect studies form an essential component. Even at the Madhyama and Uttama Studies of the Hindi Pracharini Sabha (Long Mountain) one has to take an optional subject. So Bhojpuri could be offered as an alternative. These courses could easily be designed and mounted. All necessary pedagogical resources and tools can readily be made available. Only the necessary mindset is required to make the leap.

For my MA Studies in Hindi, I myself had to study Pali and Apabhramsas literature. Why not Bhojpuri as an alternative too? We are at an opportune time therefore to give Bhojpuri its due consideration at the academic level. Then only will it gain significant recognition at all levels of society as a language of esteem as well as provide job opportunities in various sectors.

It is a historical fact that the Eastern Bihari Hindi group of the Indo-Aryan languages family stock has as base the Magadhi and Ardha Magadhi Apabhramsas which include Maithili, Brajbhasha, Awadhi, Magahi, Kosali and BHOJPURI, which are all closely interrelated with overlappings. According to R.L Handa, (History of Hindi language and Literature -1978 – Bharati Vidya Bhavan, Bombay ), “all these dialects or sister languages have in their literary form since long converged at one central point of development which came to be known as Hindi.’’

Therefore, those whose who have Bhojpuri roots would definitely gain in the study of this language to enhance their Hindi Literature and civilizational ethos. If the University of Mauritius is offering French with Kreol Studies why not Hindi with Bhojpuri Studies?


* Published in print edition on 13 December 2013

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