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Vidya Mandir - North Carolina

The School was started in 1994 by two of us (Vinod Bapat and Vijaya Bapat). Our Goal was to teach Marathi language and culture to Children born and brought up in USA. 
Many Marathi families wanted their children to be able to communicate with grandparents at home. Some wanted to empower their children to answer many questions asked to them in school such as Is Hinduism a real religion, why don’t you eat beef, why do your parents sound funny etc. (Note this is not religious teaching school but to respond to their questions that come up often) Mainly there was also the desire to share with our children love of our language including our favorite songs and, poetry, Literature.
We started in a little room at the temple. We used to meet on Sunday mornings; clean the room say a prayer and start the school. All of us had our own jobs and were not teachers by profession. Undaunted by any of it we prepared our materials and started the class. Children provided the enthusiasm and parents gave the support. Naturally we grew in many ways.
As children began to learn we had to divide the class in different levels. We decided to put children in a level based not on their age but their proficiency in Marathi. Children came in with different level of proficiency based on their age of arrival in USA, their experience at home, their own attention span etc.

Soon we needed more organized approach to teaching. We found that the books and materials acquired in India did not speak to our children in subject matter, cultural approach and experience, and method of teaching. So we developed our materials. Children provided valuable insight in developing new approaches. For example it was children’s idea to develop Jeopardy game to help increase the vocabulary. So we develop the game with categories   such as things seen in the sky & items used for eating. Curriculum is now developed and standardized.
Temple provided the place at some charge. Temple does have financial constrains so if there was wedding that paid more rent for the space, the class had to be cancelled. We moved to a school that charges us nominal fees and provides with all the equipment available in school. It is working well.
Currently we have close to 50 students in the school. They are divided in 3 levels Beginner, intermediate and advanced. At the end of school year upon completion of the material children are presented with the certificate.

Achievements to date:
Children have exceeded our expectations and goals. They can now converse in Marathi well, perform in activities such as Being a master of ceremony at Marathi events, performing variety of Songs and dances effortlessly,  act in Marathi drama giving good show. This year we started an activity called “ Kilbil Kalavishkar” at which children performed for two hours. They acted out poems old and new (Shrawan Masi; Padu Aajari, Natak phasale), gave visual presentation of folklore stories (Raja Bhikari undarachi Goshta, Chal re Bhopalya Tunuk Tunuk) and presented two short plays (Amrutghat, Marathi Kashi Tikavavi). Performance was a great hit and we now have verbal contract with Maharastra Mandal to produce the show for them each year for their Sankrant festival. They took the money used for giving “Wan” to women and decided to use the money to give the “Wan of introducing our literature and art to Children of next generation”.
Our own gauri Joshi has become an accomplished classical singer, having acquired a prize in national competition, Pooja Joshi developed her own little workshop to teach younger children about Mahabharal and Ramayan. Gandhar Mahadeshwar can recite wonderfully many passages from Marathi Literature. Neal Rane, Saagar Virkar, Pranav Gogate, Mitali Rane, Prachi and Aditi Mahajani provided support to Kilbil Kalavishkar, taking care of light, sound, comparer, banner development etc. These are but a few examples that make us all proud.
To date several volunteers have been involved in teaching children Their names are ; Vinod Bapat, Vijaya Bapat, Vidyadhar Kulkarni, Manjushri Karkare, Vidya Gharpure, Shiwangi Joshi, Sanjivani Nerkar, Jai Mahadeshwar  and Gauri Joshi.
Lessons learned:
1) We have to start with pronunciation teaching kids Marathi “Uchhar” using English words known to them. E.g. Vowel Au is pronounced as in Cow and consonant Jh as in lazy.

2) Use of games in expanding vocabulary is discussed above. It has worked well.
3) In addition to available poems, the poems we wrote have worked well for teaching colors, days of week. Body parts etc. Children enjoy them and quickly learn by heart the contents.
4) There is no substitute for parental involvement and support. Children of involved parents learn faster and go farther.
5) Support of community organizations such as Temple and Maharastra Mandal (and of course of the parents) is very useful to the school.
Future desires/ Dream
1)      Nationwide standardization of the curriculum with involvement of all concerned.

2)      Making Marathi a Language regularly taught in schools as second/ foreign language as German and French are taught today.
3) We should have Marathi teachers meeting from time to time to learn from each other.

by Dr. Radut.