NRI live in South Africa, desi ishtyle


Almost 70 years after the Transvaal United Patidar Society started a school in the suburb of Fordsburg here, the tradition of children studying Gujarati and other subjects graduating continued this weekend.

The Shree Bharat Sharda Mandir (SBSM) School was started by the Gujarati community concerned about educating their children in the language and culture that they considered so necessary.

Reflecting the new democratic order in South Africa, the school, which originally had only Hindu students, this year saw not only African students but also Muslim students who would normally attend a madrassa.

Ranjit Dana, the current chairman of the school board, said the foresight of the early settlers had ensured that children today reaped the benefits.

"The aim was always to maintain the Gujarati language as a tool to retain religion and culture."

Dana said the recent growing numbers at the school was also due to the interest from migrant communities from India and Pakistan keen that their children learn Gujarati.

So it came as no surprise to learn that among the top students this year were children who had recently settled here with their parents from Gujarat.

However, the school was facing a problem of dwindling numbers as far as South African Gujaratis are concerned, as the community has begun moving into suburbs previously reserved only for Whites under the apartheid-era Group Areas Act, Dana said.

"We are at present looking at other ways of bringing the language to our children in the community," he added.

But the children were unperturbed by the peripheral activities of the board as they showed in their performances that they were truly South Africans.

A highlight was an item in which the children performed a well-choreographed piece in support of the 2010 Soccer World Cup to be staged in South Africa against a huge stage backdrop which proudly proclaimed: "I am an African" -- a refrain popularised by President Thabo Mbeki.