No Home Languages in Schools = No Home at School.

I am not a fan of colonialism; surprisingly, genocide, subjugation, and pillage are not accolades that we British should be proud of. The enduring damage of colonialism and chattel slavery is more serious, entrenched, and even more rooted than the apparent physical violence.

“In the colonial context, the settler only ends his work of breaking in the native when the latter admits loudly and intelligibly the supremacy of the white man’s values.” 

Frantz Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth)

The colony of Australia is an excellent overt example of how European dominance starts in observational dissonance. When colonisers arrived at the continent’s shores, they were met by people who were ‘alien’ to their eyes and their understanding; through a manner of deficit evaluation, these people were deemed uncivilised. Imagine, they were judged to ‘surely die out soon’. Never mind the fact that the Native peoples of this land had survived millennia while their own ‘civilised populaces’ saw their forts rise and fall like stone jack in the boxes.

When compared to the invading forces, the indigenous peoples may not have kept written records in the same way, cultivated the land for animals and harvested grain. For all of these reasons and that they had dark, melanated skin, they were relegated to being on the lowest rung of human ‘racial’ groups*.

*The ladder doesn’t exist, nor does race (they are both socially constructed). 

Well, my countrymen certainly tried their best to expedite these people into extinction through their weaponised diseases, militia, but worst of all, through a slower, more enduring and damaging form of cultural genocide. 

If we look at the residential school’s system, the indigenous people of North America and Australia existed until 1996 (YES). Native children removed and were sent to the fields and to work in servitude (yes, this sounds a lot like slavery) as this type of docile work was suited to these people. 

The legacy of that trauma is easily forgotten by the descendants of those white invaders and tyrants. Before you get all twisted over the word tyrant, I want you to remember that Australian policy was to breed the native out of ‘half castes’ people. Tyrannical seems like too kind of a word. That sort of intergenerational trauma has an impact on the pre-birth, social environments, genetics and biopsychology of the people (For more of this, you’ll have to wait for the book).

However, I do not believe this trauma is the most effective tool of the oppressor creed. The process of taking children away from their parents severed a link to the birthright of their heritage. These policies and procedures implemented the modus operandi of colonisers by banning languages and cultural expressions such as the forbidding Capoeira in Brasil coupled with the exclusion of scholarship, literature, dance, and art. The aim is to destroy all that makes those people those people.

A form of this still exists in our collective ideology. We start with the use of ‘home languages’. Suppose a child chooses to speak in their native tongue to a peer; that is their right. A person of authority denigrating that act is akin to the same severing of those links. I am often told that students’ should speak English because their teachers cannot understand what is being said.

This is about censorship, not understanding?

Ask yourself.

Do we also move to ban whispering or children talking privately? If teachers are concerned with the possible seditious use of a language, they cannot interpret that is the fault at the source. Teachers should aim to learn their pupils’ languages if they want to know what is being said or continue to uphold those same structures. Expecting teachers to learn all the world languages is being ridiculous. Well, how different is that to expect a child to constantly and exclusively use an additional language.

I shouldn’t have to justify through reasons why the censoring of language is problematic, but here we are:

  1. Speaking in a additional language is exhausting.
  2. Sharing language is part of kinship and a fundamental part of shared culture.
  3. Some concepts do not translate across.

That leads me to this interaction.

Morning Sir

Morning XXXX

Is it okay to use your (office) phone I need to call my nan. It’s an emergency.

Of course….

Was that Kiswahili?


her eyes break eye contact and are fixed firmly on the ground. After a few With a force of will, she lifts her head and says, 

“Yeah, my family is Ugandan. The language is completely useless, though”

I remember the forlorn look in her eyes. My student felt that she had to justify the worth of and the existence of her first language. The language that she dreams and thinks in, solely speaks to her grandparents and is part of her very being. 

“Hongera, nina kiswahili baya, nilikua Zanzibar, habari za asubui?”

These are the moments that change lives. My student felt seen, no felt heard and valued, as did I. I spent that evening speaking to my father in our dialect…

Beta, why all the Gujarati?

Because it is ours.

Aparne apani bhasha ni kimmat appay. toh korna aparna sambhar se.

If we don’t value our language. Then who will listen to us.

I was an adult realising that he had been trained to value English and cultural at to the detriment of my native and diaspora cultural. A lifetime of indoctrination leading to internalised hate. This is damaging, immoral and breaks the Public Sector Equalities Duty 2010.

2 thoughts on “No Home Languages in Schools = No Home at School.

  1. Neither my son nor his daughters have forgiven me for not teaching them Hungarian. ‘How can we feel at home when we visit Budapest, if we cant talk with people?’ I feel guilty!

  2. A really thought provoking piece, Pran. It’s shocking to think that their might be schools that ban Home languages. Years ago, in a school I was DH at, we got student voice feedback that pupils felt their was little opportunity to use share their languages in daily school life (there were around 80 languages spoken). We worked with them to find ways to do this. I felt that it was very powerful and the benefits were not solely for those pupils for whom English was an additional language, but for the whole school community.

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