Toronto schools to mark November as Hindu heritage month

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Toronto, April 22: Canada’s largest school board has unanimously adopted a motion recognising November as Hindu heritage month in the country’s most diverse metropolitan area.
The motion was moved before the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) by 36-year-old trustee Parthi Kandavel. The board covers 583 schools and is the third-largest in North America.
Kandavel, whose father is of Sri Lankan origin and mother is from India, said he championed the motion because of a “desire expressed by the community.” While November is already observed as Hindu heritage Month in the province of Ontario, that was “fairly symbolic”, he said, while a similar observance for schools would have “substance.”
“There is value and significance”, he said as this decision will be reflected in the curriculum, strategies and events at the schools as students will have the opportunity to “celebrate, learn and educate” themselves about the faith.
While Hinduism is among the world’s oldest belief systems, the “unfortunate reality” is that many educationists were unaware of it, he said, and there were reports of “students being bullied for being Hindus.” The TDSB governs a student population of nearly 240,000.
The motion was co-sponsored by another trustee Avtar Minhas, who was gratified that it came as TDSB celebrated April as Sikh heritage month. “We want every child to grow in this city of Toronto the way their culture is, there traditions are,” he said, after the motion was passed in the presence of dozens of members from the Hindu community in the gallery observing the proceedings and cheering the outcome.
The TDSB decision is also important, Kandavel said, since the “practices in education and equity” it adopts tend to influence those later undertaken by other school districts within the province and across the country. “They look at us for leadership and guidance,” he said. There has already been interest expressed within school districts in the Greater Toronto Area or GTA with large numbers of students of Hindu background.
The next step after the passage of the motion will be interactions with community groups and throughout the school system so that a theme can be developed for November and also create lessons that can be used every year and activities based on the theme selected.
Posters will also reflect the theme and be placed in every school within the system. And since this entire month is aimed at educating children about Hinduism, there will be an element of play involved. And with Diwali falling in the first week of November this year, it will enhance the celebration of the first-ever year of the Hindu heritage month in Canada’s largest city. (Courtesy: HT)