12 May, 2021

Black Chalk On Board

A misguided focus on Hindi has left Bastar’s schoolchildren mute

Debarshi Dasgupta
Black Chalk On Board

Eight-year-old Sundar Baghel stands against the blue wall of his house, clutching at his soiled school shirt. The boy is a Class III student at the local government school. Three years of being taught Hindi, you would think, has made him conversant enough to respond to basic queries in the language and pushed him closer to being ‘integrated’ with the rest of India. But it’s impossible to get him and other Dhurwa children in Naga­lsar, a village deep in the Jagdalpur block of Bastar district, to speak Hindi. For every line you throw at him, Sundar just throws the same addled look back at you.

Being taught an alien language at sch­ool and that too by a teacher who doesn’t speak Dhurwi, their mother tongue, hasn’t helped his Hindi skills much. So remote is Nagalsar that even Halbi, the local lingua franca in south Chhattisgarh, has few takers here. It becomes evident when a local education official asks Sun­dar in Halbi to name what is growing in the nearby field, gesturing to the bright yellow patches of mustard flowers that stand...

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