At a recent event held at L.A. Matheson Secondary, teacher Gurpreet Bains says students have been eager to participate in the 2019 Dhahan Prize youth Punjabi writing contest. (Submitted photo)

Education

‘Powerful’ Punjabi youth writing contest lauded in Surrey

The Dhahan Prize contest invites B.C. teens to connect to their culture through storytelling

Students and teachers at L.A. Matheson Secondary are lauding a “powerful” youth Punjabi writing contest that has once again launched across the province.

The Dhahan Prize contest was established in 2017 as a way to “help recognize the richness of Punjabi history and encourage youth to connect to and share their culture through storytelling,” according to a Surrey school district release.

Through the contest, students can win cash prizes and have their work published.

Some Surrey youth are participating in this year’s contest, including Grade 11 L.A. Matheson Secondary student Jasmeen Kaur Dhaliwal.

In a release, Dhaliwal said she’s excited about the opportunity to submit her writing, but also grateful that her Punjabi class at school taught her more about Canadian-Punjabi history and literature.

“I think we are very lucky that we got a chance to learn about our mother tongue,” she said.

L.A. Matheson teacher Gurpreet Bains said several students have been eager to participate.

“We have kids who are published authors. Happiness is when your students’ work is published,” Bains said.

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Another teacher, Annie Ohana, said it’s key that students feel empowered.

“We are living in a world where I know of students in the United States that are fighting tooth and nail to see themselves in their curriculum, where doors are shut in their face, where departments of education deny them access to their mother tongues, deny them access to their cultures.”

L.A. Matheson Principal lauded the contest for allowing South Asian students to share their experience and understanding within the South Asian and with the community at large.

“That is powerful. That’s powerful for our community here at L.A. Matheson, it’s powerful for the South Asian community abroad.”

Dhahan Prize founder Barj Dhahan said the contest is not restricted to students with Punjabi backgrounds – many participants have been from non-Punjabi backgrounds who are taking Punjabi at school.

“It’s not only about inspiring those of you who come from Punjabi families to learn to write and express yourselves in your mother tongue,” said Dhahan, “but also in English and maybe by extension, other languages as well.”

SEE ALSO: Surrey students paint ‘buddy benches’

The contest is open to all B.C. students who are taking Punjabi language classes in Grade 11 or 12. Their stories, between 800 and 1,000 words, must be submitted in both Punjabi and English. As in past years, the eight winners not only receive $500, but have their work included in a printed anthology.

The deadline to submit work is May 31.

For more information about the eligibility requirements and an application form, visit dhahanprize.com/events/youth.

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