KMC’s decision to introduce Nepal Bhasa as a compulsory course to school students elates linguists and cultural experts

Published On: August 4, 2020 02:20 PM NPT By: Aditi Baral

KATHMANDU, Aug 4: Elementary school students from grade 1 to 8 in schools across Kathmandu Metropolitan City will now be taught ‘Nepal Bhasa’ as a part of their academic course from the new academic session. Like most of the compulsory subjects taught in schools, the course will carry a total of 100 marks. 

KMC officials explain that the new course has been implemented in order to introduce the city’s historical and cultural identity to the new generation. “With regard to Nepal Bhasha as the local language of the Kathmandu Valley, we decided to introduce the new course in all the schools across KMC,” said Ishawar Man Dangol, spokesperson for KMC. 

Dangol explained that the course is designed as per the ‘Local Government Operation Act 2074’.The act mentions local administrations across the nation can design a course that includes teaching local language.

The Newari language, officially known as ‘Nepal Bhasa’ is the official language spoken by the Newar community, the indigenous inhabitant community of the Kathmandu Valley. Experts from this field suggest that like other indigenous languages, the Newari language is also gradually marching towards the threat of extinction. “It is extremely sad to see that local languages are gradually forsaking from our society,” said Purushottam Lochan Shrestha, a historian and cultural expert. 

Shrestha who believes that language is one of the main identities of any ethnicity grieves that although Newars comprise an ample number of population in the Kathmandu Valley, the use of Newari language is gradually shrinking over the years. “The new generations of guardians prioritize Nepali and English languages over their mother tongue. This has kept local languages in a weak position. If this continues, all the local languages will soon become extinct.”

Shrestha gave the example of the Sanskrit language and mentioned that myriads of local languages spoken across the nation shall have the same fate if the responsible authorities do not take supportive actions. However, according to him, the Newari community is now aware about their linguistic rights and has been fighting to save their language.  

In the meantime, the curriculum introduced by KMC intends to edify students about the identity of the city that includes various festivals, traditions, arts, crafts, rituals and geography of the Kathmandu Valley- all that exhibit the true identity and distinctiveness of the city. 

According to Prof Chunda Bajrachharya, who is a member of the curriculum committee formed by KMC,  the course was necessary as the younger generation from even Newari community itself are far-flung from knowledge of their mother tongue and cultural identity of their own community.

“The main motive of this course is to teach about all the historical and cultural identity of the Kathmandu Valley and indigenous people residing in it. Names that are composed of typical Newari words cannot be taught by translating or simplifying it into other languages,” she said.

However, Bajracharya who is also a linguist at Tribhuvan University mentions that there has been concerns and criticism regarding the new course from people of various other communities living in the valley. “We have been receiving allegations from people. There are questions such as ‘Why just Newari language when there are various other communities living inside the valley’,” she said. 

Responding to such criticisms, Bajrachharya said, “It is important for people to understand that the course is designed as per the Local Government Act of 2074 B.S. The act mentions that the local government can design a course to teach the local language of that area and since Nepal Bhasa is the local language of the Kathmandu Valley, the local authorities across the valley can design such a curriculum.”

Bhaktapur Municipality initiated a similar course a year ago. “The course of Nepal Bhasha started in schools of Bhaktapur Municipality last year and it has worked wonders,” said historian Shrestha who was one of the persons assigned to design the course. 

According to Shrestha, the course has widely helped in strengthening cultural harmony between students of various backgrounds and ethnicities in Bhaktapur. The use of local language also transfers the true values of the community it belongs to. “If local governments across the country start prioritizing their respective local language courses, it can largely help in reviving the dying languages of various ethnicities residing across Nepal,” he said. 

Moreover, the curriculum was endorsed last week by the Curriculum Committee of the metropolis and the process of preparing textbooks and study materials is underway. Prof Bajrachharya said that the committee is preparing the course with 75% practical classes and 25% theoretical classes. 

“The practical classes aim to take students to field visits to various places like museums, historical sites and even plan interactive sessions with people from related fields whereas the theoretical classes will train them in verbal and written communication,” she said. 

According to spokesperson Dangol, there are 92 government schools and over 630 private schools across the Metropolitan city with more than 630 private schools. KMC  has managed to provide training to 135 teachers.

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