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Gurjit Gill works with CEDF to support multilingual identity of Birmingham’s young people
Gurjit Singh Gill is a hard-working, kind, happy and loyal individual, considered an inspiration to the young people his work has influenced and to many who have the honour of working alongside him.
Gurjit was born into a loving family in Nairobi, Kenya in the 1960’s. He travelled to India with his family when he was just a little boy. He spent most of his young educational life in Panjab (a state in North West India) and was a keen young sportsman; playing football and hockey at local and district level. He studied hard, ultimately receiving his degree in Mechanical and Production Engineering. Gurjit arrived in England in the late 1980’s. He worked for local colleges, delivering GCSE & A-Level classes in the Panjabi language and eventually landed a job at Land Rover in Solihull. His hard work saw him progress up the career ladder from Line Manager to Process Manager to Senior Quality Control Supervisor.
On a personal level, husband and father to two daughters, he was keen for his children to appreciate and treasure their Indian & Panjabi heritage, culture and language. Although for immigrants at the time it was important to integrate into the society of their new home, Gurjit soon realised there was a strong demand to preserve the culture and identity of Panjabi people in and around Birmingham. He decided to organise language classes to be delivered in his local area, these were very popular and were soon overflowing. Gurjit’s small community school taught the Panjabi language from beginner through to A-Level and he also arranged cultural evenings, community events and family days out. His rapport with his pupils, staff, parents and community members was and still is fantastic!
For the last 12 years, Gurjit has also been training and assessing in textiles companies throughout the Midlands on a part-time basis. As well as providing the NVQ training, he has assisted textiles companies to meet health & safety requirements and with their customer audits. This role has made use of his fluency in Panjabi, Hindi and Urdu.
Since 2004, Gurjit has also been working in the role of Project Manager with Birmingham-based charity CEDF (Community, Education & Development Foundation Ltd). He has been instrumental in the establishment of CEDF Panjabi School which delivers Panjabi classes to 190 children and young people. He is an active member of the local and wider community and strongly advocates the teaching of languages to young people. In particular, he believes all ethnic minority children should have the opportunity to appreciate and learn about their ethnic origin and language. Gurjit’s work ethic and dedication to Panjabi teaching are highly commendable; he has worked to bring the language to the attention of statutory agencies, community sector organisations and educational institutions, and further afield with Gurjit’s links extending internationally.
Under the guidance of his mentor Dr J.S.Nagra, (author, retired Maths teacher and Panjabi examiner), Gurjit has initiated and led the development of the Panjabi curriculum from beginner level for use in supplementary and mainstream schools. In 2010, Gurjit was nominated in the world’s first Sikh Awards for his services to education – the award category considered ‘individuals who have shown their contribution to society through means of “Seva” (Selfless Voluntary Service)’. Although he didn’t win on this occasion, he found it very humbling to have been nominated.
In January 2011, the IIFS (Indian International Friendship Society) invited Gurjit to receive an award at a presentation held in New Delhi. The event titled “Global Friendship Day” is held annually to celebrate the achievements of people of Indian origin. This prestigious event was attended by the elite of Indian politics and business as well as high profile Indian celebrities, artists and musicians. Gurjit was presented with the Bharat Gaurav Award for his accomplishments particularly his charitable and community work and of course, his contribution to education.
Furthermore, Gurjit’s dedication to community work and efforts in educating young people were recognised by the British Government when he was invited to attend the Vaisakhi celebrations at 10 Downing Street in April 2011. The event was attended by high profile members of the Asian community including television and sports personalities, religious leaders and Sikhs in the British Army, British Navy and the RAF.
Over the last 2 years, Gurjit has worked closely with academics from Birmingham University’s Mosaic Centre for Research on Multilingualism, on a cutting edge study that will inform and shape policy in relation to education, migration, multiculturalism and diversity. This two-year project has enabled researchers to develop new understanding of how language and identities interconnect for multilingual young people in the 21st Century. You can visit www.cedf.org.uk for further information on the study.
Gurjit is keen for all communities to live and work together harmoniously regardless of their ethnic origin or the language they speak. He has been instrumental in establishing the Birmingham Supplementary Schools’ Consortium (BSSC) which was founded in November 2010 following complete withdrawal of local authority funding to supplementary schools. Subsequent negotiations led by Gurjit with local Councillors resulted in funding being granted for 2011-2012. The BSSC which consists of Bangladeshi, Greek, Gujarati, Iranian, Panjabi, Polish and Tamil schools will continue its work to sustain the supplementary schools network in Birmingham, raise funds from charitable trusts and funding bodies, provide staff training, promote and improve education & citizenship in supplementary schools.